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NHSE tells trusts to prioritise education over fear trainees are being 'messed about'

Published on: 29 Mar 2022

Junior doctors and student nurses are being ‘messed about’ as hospitals continue to struggle with operational pressures, prompting NHS England to call on local leaders to prioritise their training.

Staff training opportunities in elective care, diagnostics and outpatient clinics were severely impacted by the pandemic and hospitals have struggled to get back to normal amid the ongoing pressures from covid admissions and emergency demand.

Well placed senior sources have told HSJ that trainees of all disciplines feel “messed about” because their learning is taking a back seat to service delivery, and they are being treated purely as a “pair of hands” by some trusts.

It is understood these concerns prompted a letter to trust leaders last week, signed by NHSE’s medical director Stephen Powis, chief nurse Ruth May, Health Education England’s medical director Wendy Reid and chief nurse Mark Radford.

It urged employers to “maintain a focus on training recovery and on continuing to deliver education and training activities”.

It added: “This is essential to address the scale of the disruption that the pandemic has had on students and trainees over the last two years and to reduce the cumulative impact of delayed training on workforce capacity now and for future years.”

It also described it as “essential” for trainees and students to continue to be supervised clinically and to meet their educational needs.

When asked what prompted the letter, Professor Radford said: “We know the last two years have been incredibly difficult for trainees, students and learners, with many experiencing considerable disruption to their training. This letter therefore re-emphasises that it has never been more important to prioritise training recovery and the provision of new training opportunities, alongside service recovery.”

Professor Radford stressed that NHSE was grateful to colleagues across the NHS and independent providers for their support, “during what has been a period of unprecedented challenges”.

In response to the concerns, Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, said: “Making sure that people have time to train and develop is a top priority for NHS trust leaders…

“However, this task is incredibly challenging when there are workforce shortages and vacancies. Therefore it’s vital that we have a long-term workforce plan which will create the capacity to ensure the wellbeing, training and development of NHS staff now and in the future.”

Professor Áine Burns, senior censor and vice president for education and training at the Royal College of Physicians, said: “It’s important that trusts do what they can to recover training and that there are examples of great practice. But it is also unsurprising, given the ongoing level of demand for care and clinical vacancies, that some may be struggling to; not all trusts are in the same situation.”