Doctors Training

Doctors' training is recovering from pandemic

By Gemma Raw

Health Education England (HEE) has published an encouraging update on the Post Graduate Medical Education (PGME) Recovery Programme. Launched in April 2021, the PGME Recovery Programme was established to drive system-wide efforts to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the 55,000 doctors currently in training in England. This is critical to coping with the care backlog which has built up because of restrictions brought in to fight the pandemic and protect the NHS from being overwhelmed by COVID cases.

The Training Recovery Programme Interim Report provides a progress update, outlining the approach taken to define, manage and reduce the risks to the wellbeing, numbers and future supply of the medical workforce.

Encouraging signs

The report highlights two important indicators that the programme is working:

  • The number of training extensions is lower than expected.

  • There have been some clear successes in the use of new models of learning and teaching, and new technology, to support medical training.

The report also references a suite of case studies, focusing on local and regional initiatives to support training recovery. As well as sharing best practice, these promote awareness amongst trainee doctors and educators of what's on offer, as well as providing examples for employers showing effective, optimised deployment of those working in trainee doctor roles.

"We are pleased with the progress we have made," commented Professor Sheona MacLeod, HEE's Deputy Medical Director for Education Reform. "However, it is essential that we continue to focus on prioritising education recovery alongside service recovery to ensure the supply of the medical workforce needed to deliver COVID care and service recovery and reduce waiting lists now and in the future."

Key commitments

Although the overall number of extensions is fewer than projected, the number of trainee doctors with a training backlog has grown over the duration of the programme. To provide those doctors with continued support, the partners involved in the programme (HEE, NHS England & NHS Improvement, NHS Employers, the Department of Health and Social Care, the General Medical Council and the Academy of Medical Colleges) have signed up to 18 joint, system-wide commitments. The key objectives of these commitments are to continue system engagement, increase opportunities for training recovery, ensure wellbeing for training recovery and future resilience, embed improvements into training and share best practice. The commitments will be vital in reducing the risk of more trainee doctors needing extensions, which are extremely costly for the NHS.

Professor MacLeod issues fortnightly updates on training recovery, you can read them here. To stay up-to-date with the latest news, visit our blog.