Quality Manager, Mandy Martin, explains how feedback from trainers and trainees helps Health Education and Improvement Wales to drive forward improvements in medical training. 

As a Quality Manager for Health Education and Improvement Wales (HEIW), and before that for the Wales Deanery, I’ve been involved with the national training surveys (NTS) for a number of years. We really value they surveys, because the data they provide are crucial to our daily quality management activity.

As part of the newly established HEIW, I understand just how much education organisations are focused on improving support for doctors in training and their trainers. The survey allows us to hear and use both voices to drive forward change. In Wales 97.6% of trainees and 61.8% of trainers have responded to this year’s survey – both higher than the UK average of respondents. Meaningful and strong response rates like these are vital if we’re to continue to make sure our doctors are supported in their roles.

The NTS results are a core part of our evidence base to enact positive change. We know that trainees have often moved on from their post or department before they can directly benefit from changes made as a result of their survey responses. But their feedback is crucial and ensures that training environments improve over time. By sharing their views, they’re enhancing conditions for future trainees, and ultimately upholding and improving patient safety.

Taking an evidence-based approach

GMC standards for education and training set out how organisations should support learners and those who teach them. These requirements have given us, and others, a strong mandate to drive forward change in working and training environments.

But we are also keenly aware of the need for an evidence-based approach. The UK-wide scope of the NTS adds weight to the results; and when we highlight that they’re based on benchmarked data, it becomes more difficult to challenge the findings.

At HEIW our approach to using the data is to correlate the trainer and trainee feedback. By doing this we get a more comprehensive view of departments; and we often find a significant link between the views of trainers, and those they teach. We’ve also seen that approximately two thirds of ‘below outliers’ correlate with existing areas of concern. This perspective provides us with a better understanding of where action may be necessary.

Of course, inevitably, there are some areas where trainer and trainee feedback don’t seem to correlate. When that happens, we ask our educational leads to explore the results with trainers and trainees, so we can better understand their feedback.

Responding to feedback  

We use feedback from doctors in training and trainers in our quality processes; and we add their views to our risk register. Local education providers are also asked to investigate concerns raised by both trainees and trainers, and where appropriate, submit action plans to address the issues they’ve raised in the surveys.

We’ve raised key themes from last year’s results with chief executives and medical directors in Wales. These include how boards should support the training role; and how one-third of trainers considered the amount of time allocated for their educational role to be inadequate.

All of this work is only possible when doctors share their views. We look forward to hearing trainers’ and trainees’ feedback from the 2019 surveys and using the results to help secure support for your vital roles.

The 2019 national training surveys results are now live and you can check the results and read the summary report via the GMC’s website here.