• Taking time out to travel is given as most popular reason for career break
  • On in five trainees from north east Thames region took a break after foundation training
  • Less than half of junior doctors progress straight to speciality training 

An increasing number of trainee doctors are taking a career break following completion of the foundation training, new research reveals.

A report by the Foundation Programme Office, which surveyed 6,890 trainees, found that from 2011 to 2017 there was a “year on year increase” in the number of doctors choosing not to practice medicine after the completion of foundation training – increasing from 13.1 per cent in 2016 to 13.8 per cent in 2017.

The most common reason given for a career break at the end of training was to travel – given by 62 per cent of respondents as their reason.

North east Thames had the highest percentage of trainees choosing to take a career break with one fifth of trainees deciding to take time out of medicine.

The 2017 data also reveals that the intention to take a career break doubled during foundation training, with 6.4 per cent of trainees in year one planning to take a career break but 13.8 per cent of trainees actually taking a break after year two.

The survey also revealed that the number of F2 doctors progressing directly into speciality training in the UK reduced steadily from 71.6 per cent in 2011 when the survey began to 42.6 per cent in 2017.

At the beginning of F1 training 53.8 per cent of trainees intended to progress immediately to UK specialty training, with the most popular specialty programme being general practice, followed by core medical training.

The survey also found an increase in the percentage of male respondents intending to work less than full time in their next career destination – from 36.5 per cent in 2016 to 38 per cent in 2017. Overall, 12 per cent of trainees said they intended to work part-time, a small decrease from last year.

However, the percentage of female trainees who intended to work less than full-time fell between 2016 and 2017 – from 62.2 per cent to 60.8 per cent.

Jeeves Wijesuriya, chair of the British Medical Associaiton junior doctors committee, said education providers must “look closely at their programmes” and “ask why their structures are proving so undesirable”.

Wendy Reid, medical director at Health Education England, said there is a “natural gap” between the end of the foundation programme and entry to specialist training and some doctors choose to take a break from formal training at this point.

Ms Reid added that nearly 90 per cent of doctors who complete the foundation programme go on to enter specialty or core training in the UK within three years.