Quality Manager Mandy Martin explains how feedback from trainers helps the Wales Deanery drive forward improvements in medical training. 

As a Quality Manager for the Wales Deanery, I’ve been involved with the national training surveys for a number of years. My role means that I have an active part in achieving high response rates and ensuring that the results are used in our daily quality management activity.

I’ve also been fortunate to feed into the development of both the survey for trainers and doctors in training, as part of the GMC’s ongoing evaluation of the surveys, to ensure they are fit for purpose.

Promoting excellence and the importance of an evidence based approach

I know that trainers out there are busy and are working under pressure so a survey probably isn’t the most appealing task. But, all I can say is there has never been a bigger commitment to drive forward support for trainers, both from the regulator and from education organisations across the UK, so it is really important we hear from you.

In Wales we’re looking forward to building on the response rate of the 2016 trainer survey, when 67% of trainers gave us their feedback. It’s vital for us to have another meaningful response like this if we’re to continue to ensure our trainers are supported in their roles.

The 2016 GMC standards Promoting excellence are explicit in their requirement that organisations support trainers. This has given organisations responsible for medical education and training across the UK a stronger mandate than ever to make sure trainers get the support they need, which will undoubtedly help us to drive forward change.

However, we need an evidence based approach, which means obtaining high response rates. The fact that the trainer survey is a UK-wide exercise adds weight to the feedback. When we highlight the results are based on benchmarked data, this makes the feedback more powerful and difficult to challenge.

Listening to and recognising our trainers

My first experience of the revised national trainer survey was in 2014, when Wales was one of the pilot sites. At the time, the GMC’s recognition and approval of trainers strategy was being implemented, which gave trainers confidence that there was a genuine desire to recognise their important role in the delivery of high quality training.

While we’ve always appreciated the essential role our trainers play, this helped demonstrate the need for a robust feedback mechanism to make sure trainers’ views were considered when making changes.

We managed to achieve a response rate of 61% in the pilot, and this data gave us an indication of potential areas of good practice and also where there were challenges.

After the pilot, I was keen to ensure our trainers didn’t feel it was just a tick box exercise. We spent a lot of time analysing the results and updating trainers on how we were going to use the information to ensure their roles were recognised, and how it would feed into our quality framework.

When the survey was rolled out across the UK in 2016, we wanted to build on the pilot response, to give more weight to the results. We told trainers how we’d already started to use their feedback from the pilot, and reminded them that survey not only gives us evidence to help professionalise their role, but is evidence of their commitment to participate in systems of quality improvement, and can be used in their appraisal.

Understanding and using the data

Once the 2016 survey results were released we were keen to use the data. Our first step was to correlate the trainer survey feedback with the trainee feedback, giving us a more comprehensive view of departments. In doing this we found there was a significant link between trainee and trainers’ views, with 65% of ‘below outliers’ correlating with existing areas of concern.

We included the trainers’ feedback in our risk register. Local education providers were then asked to investigate these alongside the trainee feedback and, where appropriate, submit an action plan. We also took time to explore these results on quality visits and have started to make specific recommendations for trainers in areas such as job planning.

Of course there were some areas where there the trainer and trainee feedback didn’t seem to correlate. In these instances we asked our educational leads to explore the results with trainers so we could better understand their feedback.

We have raised the key themes from the survey results with local chief executives and medical directors. These included the need for Board support for the training role and that one third of trainers considered the amount of time allocated for their educational role to be inadequate.

Finally, as healthcare in Wales is a devolved issue, we are fortunate to have close links with Welsh Government which enabled us to also raise key themes with the Chief Medical Officer.

All of this is work is only possible when you share your views. We look forward to hearing from even more trainers this year, and using your feedback to take forward further changes that will help secure support for your vital role.

The national training surveys 2017 close on 3 May. Log in to your GMC Online account to answer the survey now