NHS Scotland could lose half its junior doctors in next two years 

A survey of BMA Scotland junior doctor members found staff are demoralised, undervalued and exhausted.

Half of Scotland’s junior doctors say they are considering leaving the NHS, new data has shown.

A survey of BMA Scotland junior doctor members found that 50% are considering leaving the profession in Scotland within the next two years, with the current issues in the NHS leaving them feeling demoralised, undervalued and exhausted.

Junior doctors currently make up around half of the doctor workforce in Scotland. They are any doctor in clinical training that isn’t a consultant or GP.

Dr Lailah Peel, who chairs the BMA’s junior doctor committee, describes the findings as a “catastrophe”.

“I am speaking to colleagues on an almost daily basis about their concerns – exhaustion, burn-out, workload, workplace culture, and pay” she said.

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“The NHS is already in crisis point in Scotland. I work in A&E and I regularly see patients coming to harm because of pressures in the system.

Dr Lailah Peel, BMA Scotland junior doctor chair

“The NHS is already in crisis point in Scotland. I work in A&E and I regularly see patients coming to harm because of pressures in the system.

“We are already desperately short-staffed – we need more doctors across the entire system – we cannot afford to lose valuable junior doctors who are the future of our senior workforce.

“Urgent action must be taken to make junior doctors feel valued in their workplace and want to stay in Scotland’s NHS for the majority, if not entirety, of their careers.”

The survey also found that a staggering 90% of respondents said the challenges of working in the NHS over the last year has decreased their morale, while just one in 10 junior doctors are getting to take their break on time, or even at all.

“We’re human and when we miss our breaks we’re more likely to make mistakes,” Dr Peel said.

“We’re human and we do make mistakes.

“Junior doctors feel unappreciated and undervalued. There are many factors contributing to this feeling of discontentment among the workforce, but this year’s pay award, which is essentially a pay cut in real terms, certainly hasn’t helped matters and has led to many junior doctors re-evaluating their futures within our NHS.”

“It’s incredibly concerning to see these stats laid out in black and white.

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“If the views of the respondents of our survey are representative of the entire junior doctor workforce in Scotland we could be walking into a workforce catastrophe in the next two years.”

“The Scottish Government need to act now and do something before it’s too late.”

STV News contacted the Scottish Government for an interview but are yet to hear back.

Another trainee medic, Dr Jenna Church told STV News that working for the NHS was “extremely challenging”.

“Over the course of the four years – or just over four years – that I’ve been employed by the NHS, we’ve seen things like the staffing crisis get much, much worse.

Burnout and stress have been part and parcel of being a junior doctor for many years now.

Dr Jenna Church, junior doctor

“There’s been a pandemic in the middle of that. and that’s just really resulted in overstretched services and overstretched junior doctors.”

Dr Church believes that burnout and stress have been “part and parcel” of being a junior doctor for many years.

“They’re feeling disillusioned with their jobs, disillusioned with the NHS, and disillusioned with the opportunities that there are here in the UK for them to progress through their training without sacrificing their mental health.”

Analysis: ‘NHS needs major intervention’

By Polly Bartlett

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After speaking to junior doctors, it’s no surprise they are leaving Scotland to work abroad, or leaving healthcare completely.

I have spoken to some working 80+ hours a week, and 12 hour shifts without a break for food or drink.

The research by the British Medical Association Scotland underlines the scale of the problem.

Junior doctors are undervalued, underpaid and overworked and without major intervention these issues will stretch a burdened NHS even further.

This doctor drain leads to a vicious cycle of burnout by remaining doctors who are left picking up the slack.

The pressure is on junior doctors, but it is also on the NHS and the Scottish Government to ensure their health and wellbeing is looked after, as well as their patients.