Trainee doctors uncertain about their future in NHS, University of Leicester study finds

(Credit: Getty Images - Martin Prescott)

Nine out of ten trainee doctors are concerned about the current state of the National Health Service (NHS), a University of Leicester report has found.

The study also found that nearly half of trainee doctors have witnessed mistreatment or discrimination from NHS patients or visitors. Almost one in three trainee doctors said they experienced mistreatment or discrimination first-hand.

One in six said that they had witnessed the same treatment from co-workers within the NHS with one in seven saying that they had personally experienced mistreatment or discrimination from someone working in the NHS.

The study also highlighted a need for trainee doctors to engage with senior management within the NHS. Only one in six trainee doctors felt that their NHS Senior Management understood the issues that impact medical students.

As part of the study, University of Leicester researchers collated 323 survey responses from trainee doctors from 25 NHS Trusts in England and Wales.

The study's findings echo the findings of the General Medical Council (GMC) report from earlier this year. However, levels of uncertainty surrounding the NHS amongst trainee doctors did trend higher than the GMC report in the University of Leicester study.

The research, led by Dr Wen Wang, has suggested that factors that exacerbate uncertainty for trainee doctors are derived from the nature of their training and that junior doctors typically rotate every four to six months.

According to the report, navigating a new working environment, work systems, accommodation, commutes and relationships with colleagues can increase trainee doctors’ feelings of uncertainty within the National Health Service.

As a result, one in five trainee doctors said that they felt completely burned out to the point where they needed to seek help or change. One in three respondents said they are considering taking a break from their medical studies.

To tackle feelings of uncertainty amongst NHS trainees, University of Leicester researchers recommend:

  • An increase in communications and engagement between trainee doctors and NHS Senior Management Teams (SMT)
  • For NHS SMT to enforce a culture in which NHS staff are encouraged to show empathy, patience, support and kindness to one another, particularly trainee staff
  • To recognise the value of work achieved by trainee doctors and celebrate their success

Associate Professor in HRM Data Analytics and Interpretation, Dr Wen Wang said: “Trainee doctors are the future of the medical workforce, we need to build a supportive environment to retain those already in the pipeline.”

Dr Wang is a leading voice in the study of management practices and has advised the Health and Social Care Select Committee on NHS staff retention.

The University of Leicester is holding a training day for trainee doctors to explore career options, collaborate with leading researchers and communicate with senior NHS Trust leaders and policymakers.

The event will take place on Thursday, 30 November at the University of Leicester’s Brookfield Campus. More information about the event can be found here.