Advising with empathy and experience

Doctors' poor morale puts patients at risk.

Poor morale among doctors could put patients at risk, the General Medical Council (GMC) has warne

The doctors' regulator said there was "a state of unease within the medical profession across the UK that risks affecting patients as well as doctors.”

The warning is included in the GMC's annual report into the state of medical education and practice in the UK.

According to the report, 582 fewer doctors had gone on to specialty training in 2015 following their two post-graduate foundation years, although a number take a break at this point to improve their skills either in the UK or abroad, or for personal reasons.

Most doctors planning to take a break (86.5%) gave work-life balance as the reason - of those, 47% cited burnout resulting from their clinical placements.

The GMC said this suggested significant pressure on junior doctors, but added that problems in the workforce were "complex and multi-factorial, and some are long-standing.”

Chairman of the Patients Association, Dr Mike Smith, said that for junior doctors "it's a bit more than unease. They don't have anybody to turn to - unlike when I was a junior doctor.

"We had a registrar, senior registrar, consultant and if, in the middle of the night, you got something you couldn't deal with, there was always somebody at the end of the phone who had more experience and, if needs be, would come in."

Conservative MP, Dr  Dan Poulter, a former health minister who still works part-time as a doctor, said there is a "general feeling that there's sometimes a lack of support. The training needs of doctors are often subsumed by the need to meet increasing patient demand, need and expectation.”

He said that there was a lack of doctors at middle grade level in paediatrics, obstetrics, gynaecology and A&E. "If we neglect doctors' training then that is going to manifest in difficulties with patient care.”

The GMC criticised healthcare funding, saying that years of constraint coupled with social care pressures were leaving services struggling to cope with rising demand.

The British Medical Association (BMA) said: "Over the past year, junior doctors across the country have raised concerns about the reality of working in an overstretched health service and the impact that has on their morale and patient care."

NHS Employers, which represents health service management, said the report highlighted the need for skilled foreign workers in the NHS, adding: "We welcome the insight the report gives into the huge financial and service pressures the NHS is under."