Improving hospital doctors' working lives: online questionnaire survey of all grades

A Dornhorst, J Cripps, H Goodyear, J Marshall, E Waters, S-A Boddy
Postgraduate Medical Journal 2005, 81 (951): 49-54

BACKGROUND: In 2001, the Department of Health produced the Improving Working Lives (IWL) for Doctors document. This is the first national survey which asks hospital doctors what changes are needed to improve their working lives.

METHODS: An online questionnaire was run over a period of six weeks and was open to all doctors of all grades. Doctors were asked to choose their top five factors from a list of 35 diverse choices or to provide alternatives in free text. Demographic data were also collected.

RESULTS: 1603 hospital doctors working in the UK completed the online questionnaire. Improved secretarial or managerial support was the first IWL choice for consultants, with different aspects of clinical and non-clinical support representing their top four choices. Junior hospital doctors and staff and associate specialist grades (staff grades, associate specialists, and clinical assistants) identified improved support for education and training as their first choice, while among the female specialist registrars, it was improved support for childcare. Greater opportunities to develop new skills was an important issue for doctors in the surgical specialties and improved access to mentoring was important for all junior doctors, staff and associate specialist grades, and doctors from black and ethnic minority groups.

CONCLUSIONS: Hospital doctors in the UK need more support to improve their working lives. The principle needs are better secretarial and managerial support for consultants; education, training, and mentoring for junior doctors and staff and associate specialist grades; and improved opportunities to develop new skills for those in surgical specialties. Support with childcare is an important issue for female specialist registrars. The Department of Health, NHS trusts, deaneries, and Royal Colleges need to endorse policies that promote a training and working environment that will improve working lives for all hospital doctors, ensuring that appropriate and continuing support is available from the time doctors enter the new foundation programmes and proposed run-through grades, to their time spent as consultants in today's NHS.

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