NHS England to review cutting compulsory training for doctors

<span>The NHS review is expected to recommend an England-wide training system so that junior doctors do not have to redo the same courses when they move to another hospital.</span><span>Photograph: Jeff Moore/PA</span>
The NHS review is expected to recommend an England-wide training system so that junior doctors do not have to redo the same courses when they move to another hospital.Photograph: Jeff Moore/PA

The amount of time doctors have to spend doing compulsory training will be cut as part of an NHS drive to improve medics’ working lives, the Guardian can reveal.

Concern that doctors have too heavy a burden of mandatory training has prompted NHS England to commission a review, which it is expected to announce imminently.

It is aimed at reducing the need for doctors to undertake what for some can be up to as many as 33 sessions of training every year, depending on what stage of their career they are at. Each lasts between 30 minutes and several hours and together take about a day to complete.

NHS bosses have briefed medical groups and health service care providers on the plan, which they hope will address one of the many frustrations that some doctors – especially recently qualified doctors – have about working in the service, alongside pay, constant pressure and poor working environments.

Doctors in England have to undertake 11 types of training every year, in subjects such as safeguarding, conflict resolution, fire safety, and equality, diversity and human rights.

One idea under consideration is a change that would allow medics to take the 11 courses over the course of two years instead, saving them half a day a year in training.

However, junior doctors in the early years of their career can be obliged to repeat all 11 sessions two or even three times within a year as they go through “rotations” at different hospitals.

The review will look into easing that workload by having one England-wide system of training, to spare young medics from doing all 11 modules every time they join a different trust.

Prof Sir Stephen Powis, NHS England’s national medical director, confirmed the review. “While statutory and mandatory training provides NHS staff with core knowledge and skills that support safe and effective working, we know that needing to repeat the same training courses every year isn’t the best use of a clinician’s time. So it’s right that we look to find ways to cut back on this, while still considering our legal obligations,” he said.

“Cutting red tape and ensuring this type of training is only carried out when necessary – for example, when junior doctors move between hospitals – will not only be better for our staff, who will spend less time worrying about training to adhere to legal requirements, but will also benefit patients by freeing up clinicians’ time for care and treatment.

The review is one of a series of measures NHS England is set to unveil intended to improve the working lives of its 1.4 million-strong workforce, in an attempt to improve recruitment and staff retention.

The Times reported that one of the ideas under consideration to free up doctors’ time was to allow people to sign themselves off work for minor illnesses using an automated online triage scheme.

The British Medical Association, which is a trade union and professional body for doctors, declined to comment because it did not have enough details of NHS England’s plans.