New measures to improve doctors' working lives

The NHS has announced new measures intended to improve the working lives of doctors.

NHS England is pledging to enhance choice and flexibility with rotas, while reducing payroll errors and the financial burden of course fees.

In a letter from NHS leaders, the health service has also announced that it will carry out a review of the minimum legal requirements for statutory and mandatory training so that staff can spend less time on admin and inductions and more time caring for patients. This could mean that the time burden for training is halved and the refresher period between modules lengthened.

Doctors are currently legally required to complete 11 statutory and mandatory training courses every year, but the NHS England review which is due to be completed by August 2024, will determine which staff groups and roles are required to complete each mandatory training module.

The NHS will also ask trusts to adopt a national training framework and an eLearning online training portal which will ensure mandatory training is completed and reported consistently. This will mean that doctors will no longer need to repeat mandatory training when moving between hospitals.

Trusts will also be exploring the opportunities technology could offer to enable greater self-rostering so doctors have more control over their lives while meeting the needs of the service.

The system for paying for course fees will be changed, so that the NHS pays them upfront, instead of the trainee paying and then waiting for reimbursement. 

Amanda Pritchard, NHS chief executive, said: “Our doctors are there for our patients who need their expert, specialist care everyday – so we must do everything we can to make sure we are there for them too.

“We have listened to and continue to listen to staff frustrations, so from cutting red tape in training, to improving flexible working options, to sorting out payroll errors, we really hope that these practical actions will help make a tangible difference to their working lives.

“Some of these are immediate actions which trusts should make sure are happening right away, while other are longer term measures which we are making a priority – we want our skilled doctors to stay working in the NHS and have rewarding careers – and I am committed to making these important changes.”

Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director said: “Our doctors work across a wide range of services day in day out to provide expert, compassionate care to patients and so it is absolutely right that in NHS England, we do everything within our power to boost their working lives.

“We are listening to the concerns of the medical workforce – so whether that’s cutting down on unnecessary training requirements or eliminating payroll errors, we will work with local leaders to make sure these improvements happen and without delay.

“And as part of the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan, we are taking further action to retain our hardworking, committed workforce, so we can continue to meet the growing demand for care across all of our services.”