Results of Trainees' study leave survey 2022

BGS Trainees' Council
Ennan Mwendwa
Katherine Chin
Sangam Malani
Date Published:
06 February 2023
Last updated: 
06 February 2023

Results of a survey carried out among attendees of the BGS Trainees' Weekend 2022, reflecting on issues relating to study leave and the wider picture for Trainees.

In 2022 the BGS Trainees' Weekend was moved from a face-to-face event, with the option of online attendance, to a fully online weekend. The registrations for face-to-face attendance were low and as a result the difficult decision had been made to cancel in the person aspect.

In light of this, a survey was sent out to the attendees of the trainee weekend to ascertain what barriers there were to attending a conference in person and what potential actions can be taken in the future to mitigate this. Coinciding with our survey, the GMC released their annual trainee report, in which study leave was the subject of some of their questions. In this report we discuss the results of the internal survey and the GMC trainee report, and what this reflects in terms of the wider trainee picture.
In total 48 people responded to our questionnaire, of which the large majority were specialist registrar grade (41) and training in England (36).
For 50% of the respondents the biggest barrier to attending a BGS was as cited clinical work demands, followed by prioritisation of their personal and home life (10%) (Figure1). Respondents also agreed that had they had access to study leave they would have attended a meeting face-to-face.

Study leave

On a scale of 0-10, 0 being not at all easy and 10 being extremely easy, when people were asked how easy it was for them to get study leave at that moment in time they answered on average a 7.4. Then when asked how easy it would be to obtain study leave in the coming 3-6 months the average answer was a 6.5.

Regarding the topic of available study budgets people generally felt that there was adequate access to funding. From a scale of 0-10 with 0 being completely disagree and 10 being completely agree, on average the answer 6.3 was given when asked whether there was sufficient budget to attend meetings in person. However over half of people were not actually sure how much their budget was (Figure 2).

The respondents were also given the opportunity to give feedback to the BGS on specific points they had with regards to training and study opportunities. Some people feel that online conferences are “more convenient” and “accessible”, and means one can “access conferences from home instead of travelling far”. However one person suggested that this then may “add to the burden” of things to “catch up on” if they are accessing the conference resources outside of the official meeting/conference day.
Advantages to being able to attend a meeting in person were identified. For instance some people described it as being much “easier to engage” in and appreciated the opportunity to network with fellow geriatricians, particularly if you are working somewhere where there is a small geriatrics department.
One suggestion was made with regards to the need for a larger study budget, particularly in the climate of an increasing cost of living. This was important given the associated costs of an in-person conference such as hotel and transport costs.

The wider picture

When we compare our internal results to the findings of the GMC trainee survey, the GMC respondents from across the UK were similarly able to access a study budget to cover the required courses (Figure 3). However, unlike our results, the majority of trainees did not report clinical duties being an impediment to obtaining study leave (Figure 4) and were encouraged to take their leave (Figure 5).
Overall, both our BGS questionnaire and the wider GMC trainee 2022 survey found that trainees were able to access a study budget. At the time of the survey people generally found that the budget was adequate, however this may have since changed given the current financial climate and pressures. It appears that, amongst our BGS cohort of trainees, the greatest barrier to people attending a meeting or conference in person is the ongoing pressures of clinical work. This made us reflect on the speciality training programme currently.
Clinical pressures are a common theme across many aspects of the NHS but it is imperative that a balance is struck between clinical duties and professional development. Training of doctors is central to their personal and professional growth and also to retention. Encouraging study leave for personal development sends a strong message to trainees that the organisation is invested in their success. It allows them to benchmark learning, increase productivity, feel valued, and ultimately deliver evidence based, patient centred, high quality care. And this is what we all want at the end of the day!

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