Dr Latifa Patel is an ST6 Paediatric Trainee in Manchester, on an Out Of Programme Experience (OOPE). She is one of five clinical fellows working with the GMC, for 12 months, all of whom are doctors at different stages in their training, from post F2 to ST7, and from a mix of specialties and locations across the UK.
Our GMC has given us an open door policy to all directorates and projects. This has given me the opportunity to really understand the educational oversight responsibilities and the regulatory roles of the GMC as outlined in the Medical Act. I am able to question, understand, input and affect changes to key work streams which impact on our training, our registration, our future workforce and most importantly the care of our patients.
One of the projects I am involved in this year, are the national training surveys (NTS). I’ve gained new insights into the delivery, analysis and dissemination of our data. Having completed the NTS for 7 years and despite the many e-mails, links, FAQ’s and posters from the GMC, I still hadn’t realised the full weighting our feedback is given.
Our NTS is the largest survey of its kind in the world. It is an essential way for the GMC to check the quality and delivery of our training and our data is taken very seriously. There is a dedicated team of question writers and analysts who evaluate our data and share the results with our departments, our hospitals and surgeries and our regional and national educational bodies, to look at ways in which our training can be improved.
Our feedback, via the NTS, has the potential to make meaningful change, to our training, to the training of future colleagues, to the work of bodies responsible for medical training across the UK and most importantly, the care we deliver to our patients.
Things I didn’t know about our NTS
- I didn’t know about the research that went into framing the questions. The NTS team tests all new questions with a sample group of trainees and trainers before including them in our NTS and continuously assesses the questions and answers. If you’re not happy with the questions, get involved in writing them! Focus groups are held at various locations across the UK and you can take part by ticking a box at the end of the survey.
- I didn’t know how much weight the GMC put on our NTS results and how the data is repeatedly referred to, throughout the year, in various high-level GMC and stakeholder reports and meetings. If concerns aren’t raised, then your training provider, LETB or deanery and the GMC may assume the problems aren’t there and not make changes.
- I didn’t know the lengths the NTS team go to, to protect our anonymity – I know this is a concern for my colleagues. If your rotation has fewer than three trainees, your results are only published as part of a larger group. I refer to this as the, ‘n<3 rule!’.
- I didn’t know about all the other options for trainees, if they’re not comfortable raising a concern about bullying and undermining or patient safety, in the NTS. On the NTS web page, our GMC advises you to contact your deanery or HEE local team with the details, or to email the surveys team at firstname.lastname@example.org. Another option is the GMC enquiries line. If you want to raise a concern anonymously, you can discuss it with a GMC adviser. GMC advisers are available on 0161 923 6602, 0800 – 1700 Monday – Friday and 0900 – 1700 on Saturday.
I wanted the NTS team to work with frontline trainees and trainers in our hospital environment. To start this, I organised a visit to the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, where they met my colleagues. We walked around the wards meeting trainees, trainers and the wider healthcare team. I showed them our facilities; the doctors’ mess, the offices, the workstations, the equipment we use. We sat in the doctors’ mess with trainees, for a quick lunch break and had an open discussion about training and the benefits and pitfalls of the NTS.
The day was an invaluable experience for the NTS team, and it helped them to further understand the context of the survey answers; the environment in which trainees and trainers work and the facilities we have access to.
This year the survey has specific questions about, our rest and catering facilities, transport home after shifts, access to wifi and the quality of online library and learning resources and their impact on our training.
To get the most out of our NTS and for the results to be truly reflective of our training, we need our colleagues; trainees and trainers to complete the surveys openly and candidly.
The NTS are a real opportunity to show our regulator the good and the bad elements of our training. If used correctly, it can have a real impact on our training and, inevitably, the care we give to our patients.
As today’s trainees and tomorrow’s trainers, consultants, GPs, supervisors and leaders we all have a responsibility to ensure we credit good practices and call out bad practices. The NTS shouldn’t just be another tick box on our route to ARCP. It should be used as a positive training improvement tool.
As part of the visit to the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, the NTS team and a trainer went through the NTS results with trainees. The blocks of coloured squares indicating the good and the bad feedback, the percentages and the comparisons.
Coming away from the visit, I left wondering how many trainees checked their department’s NTS results both after leaving and joining a new post – it’s not something I used to do. It benefits us all to work in a system where training standards are constantly reviewed. Where improvements are needed, trainees are best placed to advise suggested changes.
If you do want to check your department’s NTS results, this may help.
Going into my next rotation I will check the department’s NTS results, I will work with the trainers to improve on the areas which need improvement and on leaving the rotation I will offer constructive feedback to further improve training posts, both for the benefit of colleagues and patients. Will you consider joining me and doing the same?
This is our training and we should play an active role in shaping it. No decision about us, without us. Be open, be honest and do not hold back!
If you have any questions about our NTS, please see the website pages for trainees and trainers or join the conversation on social media using #GMCsurvey.
GMC Clinical Fellow 2018-19