Hannah Baird is a trainee Emergency Medicine doctor currently working at the GMC as a clinical fellow. Part of her role involved working on the GMC’s national training survey (NTS), the largest annual survey of UK postgraduate medical education and training. Not only does the NTS provide powerful data that ensures training environments can be improved, but it also has the potential to inform a wide range of research projects.

Here, Hannah answers questions to explain how trainee doctors – and other potential users – can get the most out of the data. And how the GMC can help them find what they’re looking for.

What is the national training survey?

If, like me, you’re a doctor in training then you’ll be familiar with the annual reminders to complete the national training survey. Each year the GMC asks questions of trainees, and doctors who work as trainers, to help it get a clear picture of postgraduate medical education and training across all four countries of the UK.

Questions cover topics including working environments, burnout, supervision, and workload. There are tens of thousands of respondents, making it the largest annual survey of its type and a rich source of powerful data and insight.

Why does the GMC generate this data?

The GMC oversees medical education and training across the UK, so gathering and collating this data about doctors’ experiences helps it to monitor the environments in which doctors work and train.

It can then work with employers, statutory medical education bodies and medical royal colleges to highlight and tackle issues, even at a local level.

But the information generated by the NTS isn’t just there for the GMC and other organisations. It’s made public so anyone can access it and use it.

How can I access NTS data?

You can access it via the GMC’s NTS reporting tool. You can then search for information based on organisation, post specialty or programme.

How might I use the information?

Many doctors in training will no doubt, just like me, be looking for accurate and up-to-date information about their speciality, or about trusts or sites where they might be considering a placement.

NTS data can provide an in-depth look at the quality of training for a particular specialty at a certain site. Or it can provide data that might be useful to projects, for example if you’re involved in quality improvement work and you want to look at inductions or the standard of supervision and support where you work.

You might have an interest in workforce wellbeing and want to understand the levels of burnout in your specialty. Or maybe you have an education or leadership role in your trust and want to get a better understand of where to target interventions.

There is such a rich depth of data available, and it can be tailored to so many uses and interests.

Is the reporting tool easy to use?

It might look a little complicated the first time to you try it, but the GMC has provided a short video that explains the basics and that will help you to get started.

What if I’m looking for data tailored for a specific project I’m working on?

The GMC is keen to encourage more people, especially trainee doctors, to explore the NTS data and make use of it. However, if the data you need isn’t on the tool, the GMC’s surveys team can provide a bespoke data report, free of charge.

Here’s a real-life example. Dale, a trainee in emergency medicine (EM), wanted to find out more about burnout, work intensity and high-risk correlations for doctors working in EM. Here’s what he has to say:

The support and guidance of the GMC’s NTS team was crucial as I have only a limited experience of surveying people and an even more limited understanding of statistical analysis of large data sets. My hope from an EM point of view was that NTS data could help better guide national training policy.

Over four months I worked with the NTS team to formulate further questions to ask EM trainees to help us understand better the problems we face and to inform policy. To reduce the possibility of survey fatigue, and to ensure we weren’t repeating what the NTS had already captured, we created a specific survey to capture more granular detail.

The findings will give us a more robust annual training report to inform the Royal College of Emergency Medicine’s Training Standards Committee, as well as providing a better understanding of sustainable working practices and potential threats.

Working with the NTS team has allowed us to focus our advocacy work and, most importantly, through data driven interventions, improve the training and welfare of the doctors we represent.

How can I contact the GMC to discuss a bespoke report for a project I’m working on?

You can email the GMC’s NTS team to discuss your project and the data you are looking for here nts@gmc-uk.org.

This year’s national training survey is open until midday on Tuesday 3 May. Trainees and trainers should log into their GMC Online account to take part.