• Survey of more than 7,000 trainee doctors reveals almost half will not continue training in UK next year
  • More doctors are taking career breaks but the number leaving the profession is static
  • More than 10 per cent of trainees said they were pursuing a medical role outside the UK

The numbers of junior doctors turning their back on training in the NHS after their first years of work in the service has increased for the fourth year in a row.

According to the latest data on career decisions made by trainees at the end of their foundation years, only 52 per cent chose to continue training in the UK next year – down from a high of 71 per cent in 2011 and 59 per cent in 2014.

Doctor

Doctor

More than 1,000 doctors said they planned to work less than full-time

The survey findings emerge amid a bitter dispute between the government and the British Medical Association over changes to doctors’ terms and conditions.

The UK Foundation Programme Office survey of trainees also reveals more than 13 per cent of doctors said they were taking a career break from medicine, a figure that has increased every year since 2011 when just 4.6 per cent said they were taking a break.

The number who said they were permanently leaving the medical profession remained static at just 0.3 per cent, and more than 10 per cent of trainees said they were pursuing a medical role outside the UK. This was higher than in 2014 but lower than each previous year since 2011.

The majority of doctors who took up posts and training outside the UK, 66 per cent and 15 per cent respectively, said they intended to return to work in the UK in the future.

Destinations for F2 doctors, year on year comparison20152014201320122011
Specialty training in UK - run-through training programme 24% 29.5% 29.9% 33.5% 34%
Specialty training in UK - core training programme 26% 26.8% 29.6% 30.5% 34%
Specialty training in UK - academic programme 1.3% 1.6% 1.5% 1.6% 1.5%
Specialty training in UK - FTSTA 0.1% 0.2% 0.2% 0.8% 1.1%
Specialty training in UK - deferred for higher degree 0% 0.1% 0.2% 0.1% 0.1%
Specialty training in UK - deferred for statutory reasons 0.5% 0.3% 0.5% 0.5% 0.5%
Sub-total for specialty (including GP) training in UK 52% 58.5% 64.4% 67% 71.3%
           
Locum appointment for training in UK 0.5% 0.5% 0.6% 0.7% 0.4%
Service appointment in UK 9.2% 5.6% 3.5% 3.3% 2.3%
Other appointment in UK (eg anatomy demonstrator) 5.5% 6.1% 2.3% 1.9% 3.0%
Still seeking employment as a doctor in the UK 8.6% 8.4% 7.6% 7.4% 6.3%
Specialty training outside UK 0.4% 0.3% 0.6% 1.1% 0.8%
Other appointment outside UK 6.1% 3.9% 4.8% 6.6% 7.4%
Still seeking employment as a doctor outside the UK 4.3% 5.1% 6.5% 5.5% 3.7%
Not practising medicine - taking a career break 13.1% 11.3% 9.4% 6.1% 4.6%
Not practising medicine - permanently left profession 0.3% 0.3% 0.3% 0.2% 0.1%
Total signed off, known destinations 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%

The UKFPO said a targeted study should be carried out “to understand the reasons for the increase in the proportion of doctors taking a career break following completion of the foundation programme”.

A total of 1,044 doctors said they planned to work less than full-time. This increases the workforce demand for the NHS in order to provide full-time equivalent care to patients.

Seventy-five per cent percent of doctors who completed their foundation training are working or intend to work in a clinical capacity in the UK immediately after the foundation programme.

All foundation doctors who were due to complete their foundation training in August 2015 were asked to participate in the survey, with 7,168 trainees taking part – a response rate of 95 per cent.