Why should Doctors in training complete the National Training Survey?  Dr Victoria Bradley, a Medical Education Fellow at Kings College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, argues for its importance in shaping effective learning environments

Since 2006 there has been an annual national survey of training doctors, and since 2010 it’s been in its current form under the banner of the GMC. Most trainees find it a pain, me included. But I’m not here to whinge about things that annoy me; I have other blogs for that. I want to explore with you why I think that the National Training Survey is a vital and underused tool for doctors in training.

The survey arrives in your inbox around the point in the year there’s a flurry of rain-stained bank holidays. You ignore it in preference of doing something fun like paying that gas bill that says “Final Notice” in red because you seem to spend 7,398hours per day being a doctor and don’t have time to be an adult. This leads to more reminders. Reminders from the GMC. Reminders from your Local Education Trust Board. Reminders from your panicking trust.

So why should we fill in the GMC survey? Well you probably feel you don’t have a choice. We are repeatedly told that the survey is compulsory and that our ARCP panels will look for evidence that we’ve completed it in order for us to pass go, collect £200 and trudge into our next stage of training.

Please, please, please ignore this. I know I resent being made to do things and I get frustrated that although I’m staring down the barrel of thirty I am still made to do things or face the JRCPTB version of the naughty step. But we mustn’t waste energy and emotion sulking about it.

Shaping our training

We need to own it. The GMC survey is hugely powerful; it dominates discussion in educational meetings for most of the academic year. I’ve sat in meetings with senior educationalists who have been palpably distressed by negative feedback from trainees. I’ve seen sweeping changes made with the backing of feedback captured by the survey that would otherwise have been impossible.

As young trainees we have a lifetime of medicine ahead of us, and no one is going to make it a nice place to work apart from us. The survey results are hard to ignore and in the current climate of missed targets and gloomy financial forecasts nothing else speaks as loudly to local education providers than this. Ok so it may not make conditions for you better right now, but it will help your colleagues get better training in the next year. Perhaps more importantly it will raise the profile of education and training at a time when we’re going to be squeezed to breaking point.

But the survey offers us more than just improving what we already have. It is an opportunity for us to not just improve our training, but begin to shape it. If everyone reports on the people who teach by humiliation then we will start to move to a new paradigm; one built on respect and effective learning environments.

If everyone reports on those jobs with overwhelming service pressure that leave juniors under supported and with little time to reflect and consolidate knowledge, then rotations will be redesigned to offer the most to trainees.

As the doctors of the future we need to use the GMC survey to start critically looking at the places we work and the training we get. We need to help ourselves. Please take the time to fill the survey in honestly and constructively and make sure that your voice is heard this year.

Victoria Bradley


Victoria Bradley is a Medical Education Fellow at Kings College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in South London.