30% of trainee doctors find workload ‘heavy’

Over 30% of trainee GPs are finding their workload ‘heavy’ the GMC has found in its most recent training survey. The pressures of working in the NHS are telling, the council says but, overall, the NHS seems in safe hands with the emerging leaders of the future

Every year the GMC asks upwards of 75,000 trainee doctors whether the education they are receiving is safe and effective, and whether it is in delivered in an appropriately supportive training environment that meets the GMC’s standards. The results of this survey act as a barometer, measuring both the effectiveness of the training that’s being delivered and also the wellbeing and satisfaction levels of new doctors.

The results of this survey act as a barometer, measuring both the effectiveness of the training that’s being delivered and also the wellbeing and satisfaction levels of new doctors.

This year the GMC decided to tailor the surveys to different groups, providing different surveys to those who work in primary care and other areas. The results, therefore, provide a more relevant and reliable perspective on the current state of doctor training.

Training quality

Training as a doctor has never been easy, but it seems that the pressure on participants is reducing. This year, 38% of trainees rated the intensity of their work as ‘very heavy/heavy’, a reduction on previous years. Encouragingly, most of those surveyed considered the pressure of training to be ‘about right’.

Overall, 74.5% of respondents are happy with the quality of teaching and clinical supervision they receive.  Further to this, 82% feel that the working environment in their post is fully-supportive. Encouragingly, almost 75% of GP trainers feel that their practice is fully-supportive of training.


The stresses of medical training are well-known, with burnout a potential risk for those pushed to the edge. New doctors are not only managing the pressures of a challenging role, but also the emotional stresses that occur when dealing with the health and wellbeing of real people.

It is taking a toll, however.  Almost 40% of trainee doctors found their work to be emotionally exhausting and a quarter found their work to be ‘frustrating’. Despite their young age, worryingly, 17% felt ‘burnt out’ by the demands of their jobs.

Overall, there are some concerns that the pressures of medical training are affecting the physical and mental health of participants; over 20% felt exhausted in the morning at the thought of another working day, and 16% ‘felt every working hour to be tiring’.

Pressure is, ultimately, a natural part of the role, so having someone to turn to is essential. Sadly, over 30% of respondents didn’t know to whom they could speak to about occupational health concerns.


Reacting to the results, the GMC has committed to more action. “Doctors work long hours in highly pressured environments, and they need support.” said Charlie Massey, Chief Executive of the GMC. “We all must do more to address the causes of poor wellbeing, starting with making sure that every doctor working in the UK knows who they can turn to in their organisation if their health and wellbeing is suffering.”

The GMC has called upon all healthcare organisations to make it clear to all staff – not just trainee doctors – where they can get help and support for stress and other mental health issues.

To understand whether the support provided is enough, the GMC has commissioned a UK-wide review, chaired by Dame Denise Coia and Professor Michael West, to address this important issue. The results of the review are expected some time in 2020.

You can view the complete results of the GMC National Training Surveys 2019: Initial findings report here.

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