BGS position statement on flexible working in geriatric medicine

24 March 2021

The British Geriatrics Society (BGS) supports flexible working practices across the workforce delivering healthcare for older people. In light of this, the BGS has published a position statement setting out how less than full time training (LTFT) and flexible working practices can be improved for the benefit of its members and the older people they care for.

The UK falls behind many other countries in percentages of individuals working flexibly. In Sweden, 71% of companies offer ‘flexi-time’ working, compared to just over 50% in the UK. Flexible working takes many forms, including working part-time or compressed hours, working in different locations or delivering work in different ways. Although there are many approaches to flexible working, the benefits are universally experienced and should be tangible to both employees and employers.   

A key benefit of flexible working is that it helps people to maintain a balance between their work and personal life which in turn supports employees’ mental health, wellbeing and resilience in the workplace. Evidence has shown that employees who are supported to work flexibly are less like to suffer burn-out and are more likely to be satisfied in their work. In addition, flexible working helps to support retention of talent, something that the NHS has struggled with in the past. Between 2011 and 2018, more than 56,000 people stopped working for the NHS in England, citing lack of work life balance as the reason. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the enormous toll it has taken on NHS staff, supporting workplace resilience and retention has never been more important.

As LTFT and flexible working becomes normalised in the NHS, as supported by the NHS People Plan, it is imperative that this is embraced across the system. LTFT trainees and consultants need to be supported to undertake their training and work within their designated hours. This document aims to help LTFT staff to understand the support available to enable them to undertake their work with confidence. We also hope that training programme directors, educational supervisors, commissioners and full-time colleagues will find this document useful in helping them to understand how they can help those working flexibly.

Dr Jennifer Burns, President of the British Geriatrics Society, commented:

The BGS is proud to publish this position paper on flexible working within the workforce for older people's healthcare. The provision of opportunities for flexible working has been shown to improve retention and staff morale as it enables healthcare practitioners to balance work and other commitments. The BGS encourages employers to be proactive in making flexible working arrangements available and successful. We are committed to ensuring that we support our members to provide the best care they can to older people and to playing our part in making our events and services accessible for those who work flexibly.”

Dr Alice Jundi and Dr Zoƫ Monnier-Hovell, Co-Chairs of the BGS LTFT working group, commented:

The ability to work less than full time or flexibly enables individuals to balance their professional lives with family life or other pursuits outside of their contracted role, whether they be medical, academic or personal. It is important that employees working this way are embraced and supported to be a vital part of the team and that their colleagues and employers understand what is meant by working flexibly. We hope that this position paper will empower those working flexibly to feel secure in their roles while also helping fulltime colleagues and employers to understand and support. Geriatric medicine is a brilliant speciality and we are made stronger by the diversity of our workforce, which is made possible by the implementation of flexible working practices.”