• Pay review body warns policymakers not to ignore demands of “generation Y” doctors
  • Call follows last year’s damaging junior doctors contract dispute
  • People born between 1980 and 2000 will make up half the global workforce by 2020

A failure by NHS policymakers to respond to demands of a new generation of doctors could adversely affect the long term sustainability of the workforce, a pay review body has warned.

The government and NHS employers have been warned to adapt their workforce policies for “generation Y” – people born between 1980 and 2000.



The DDRB said ‘millennials tend to have a different approach to careers from their predecessors’

The Review Body on Doctors’ and Dentists’ Remuneration (DDRB), which published its report for 2017-18 last month, examined what it called the “generation Y phenomenon” that the NHS needed to respond to.

The review body, which advises ministers on pay policy for doctors, warned the millennial generation of junior doctors has marked differences in its approach to work and expectations on their employers than previous generations.

It said: “We have noticed that some of the millennials tend to have a different approach to their careers from their predecessors, valuing, in particular, aspects such as work/life balance, flexibility and variety in the workplace. These issues featured in the background to the junior doctors’ contract dispute.

“The characteristics and behaviours of generation Y will need to be taken into account by employers and policymakers. As millennials will make up a greater proportion of the workforce, it is important that NHS employers react appropriately to ensure that they are able to recruit, retain and motivate this group.

“The generation Y phenomenon, as it relates to medicine and dentistry, should not be seen in isolation from other changes, such as the shift in gender balance of those choosing to train as doctors or dentists. While there is not sufficient evidence to draw definitive conclusions at this stage, this is a theme worthy of further exploration, and one likely to affect the long term sustainability of the workforce.”

By 2020, half the global workforce will be made up of people in generation Y, with the DDRB highlighting significant characteristics that the NHS needed to be aware of. These included:

  • Greater use of technology, social media and an expectation of instant access to information.
  • An emphasis on personal needs as opposed to those of the broader organisation – a consequence of living through the global financial crisis.
  • Dislike of rigid corporate structures and information silos.
  • An expectation of rapid career progression and variety, and a reduction in corporate loyalty.
  • A desire for international experience.
  • A need for work/life balance, flexibility and the desire to feel valued at work.

The DDRB said: “The career trajectory and preferences of generation Y should be factored into workforce planning, in particular regarding training, work/life balance and personal needs, but also where they want to be on pay. There appears to be a trend developing towards an increase in salaried GPs and locum doctors. We can see the same trend towards ‘performer only’ dentists. This may indicate that staff are seeking greater flexibility as well as improved work/life balance and remuneration in some cases.”

It said the trend for foundation year two doctors to take a break from their career was “critical” and Health Education England need to track this development.

The DDRB described the government’s intention to be self-sufficient in terms of medical graduates by 2020 was sensible, but added: “We are not yet convinced that the mechanisms are in place to achieve this – particularly given changing demographic trends, such as the feminisation of the workforce and generation Y preferences for greater work/life balance and flexibility.”

Jeeves Wijesuriya, chair of the British Medical Association’s junior doctors committee, said: “One in three junior doctors have considered leaving the profession and only half of those finishing their first two years in the job in 2016 went straight into specialist or GP training. These worrying patterns we are seeing are a real reflection of worsening pressure on staff and services, but also of rigid training structures that have not adapted or evolved to provide the flexibility or control over our working lives, which is so important to not just juniors but all doctors. “

Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, said: “We acknowledge the need to adapt to the continuing changes in the demographics of the NHS workforce. This includes the need to be aware of the generation Y cohort of staff.

“However, the NHS is a large and diverse employer and, importantly, needs to take full account of the needs of its multigenerational workforce. The NHS employs staff across all ages, and we need to make sure that through its employment offer it continues to be able to attract, recruit and retain the right staff of all generations.”