Bill McMillan, Assistant Director – Medical Pay and Workforce at NHS Employers blogs about why the results of the National Training Survey offer valuable insights to employers.

The GMC’s National Training Survey provides one of the richest sources of information about what doctors in training think and feel. When correlated with the NHS Staff Survey and patient feedback, it gives valuable insight into staff experience and the quality of the work they do and see.

How the National Training Survey helps to improve medical training
This year, over 53,000 doctors in training took part to give us up-to-date and relevant information about the quality of training provided at every training site in the UK. These responses help all of us involved in postgraduate education to understand training experiences, and take the right steps to improve the quality of medical training.

The GMC’s invaluable reporting tool allows employers to study the survey responses and compare by local education provider, specialty or deanery. It allows employers to benchmark against comparable organisations and compare their own performance over time to track where there may be outliers and improvements as a result of previous actions.

Compassionate care

Employers and the GMC support and promote the need for compassionate care based on the values established in the NHS Constitution [PDF] and in the GMC’s Good Medical Practice. That means that managers must, with compassion, listen actively to their staff. They should pay attention to them and be present for them. They should be aware of their distress and be empathic to that distress. Most importantly they should take intelligent action that makes a difference for the better.

That’s what we want our doctors to do for their patients and colleagues and it is what we all need to do for doctors in training.

Of course, we need to do that in the everyday management of the service but the voice of the doctor in training can be muted at that level. What the GMC National Training Survey offers is the unfiltered view of what they say when asked outside the usual lines of command.

National Training Survey 2015 result senior colleagues listening
This was the response to one of our 2015 national training survey questions; you can see the full results at
Over 53,000 doctors in training took part giving give all of us involved in postgraduate education up-to-date and relevant information on the training experience to help us take the right steps to improve the quality of training, and ultimately make care better and safer for patients.

Working outside the comfort zone

There have been some consistent messages. Doctors in training say they are often working outside of their comfort zone. They say that they can feel unsupported in their service and training, particularly in evenings, during the night and at weekends. Still too many say that they have felt bullied at work .

These are all issues where their managers can offer intelligent action for the better. Those managers are themselves members of the medical profession with a shared responsibility for and commitment to the standards and values of the medical profession and to doing the best for patients.

For example, if trainees are feeling unsupported during evenings and weekends, the working patterns and job plans of consultants may need to be reviewed to ensure better support. It may be possible for consultants to use shift handovers better for training purposes if trainees feel they are working beyond their professional comfort zone.

They can ask themselves whether they are accessible and available enough to support and nurture the next generation. If they are not, they can make the necessary changes in their own practice to improve the trainee experience.

What an important task that is. That is why the survey is so important for trainees to complete, for the GMC to report it, and for its findings to be responded to with compassion and intelligence at employer level.