Trainee psychiatrists in Scotland taking longer to complete their training

Press release, Scotland news
13 September 2023

Doctors training in psychiatry are increasingly taking longer to complete their training, a new report from the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Scotland has revealed.

The analysis also shows psychiatry trainees are more likely to take a break or leave Scotland to continue training elsewhere or not return at all.

Since 2018, around a third of higher training posts have been vacant.

There are discrepancies in where training posts are located and how many are filled in Scotland. The west and east had at least 80% of their posts filled last year compared to just 20% in the north.

RCPsych in Scotland has announced a number of bold recommendations to avert the training crisis and prevent ongoing consultant vacancies.

Measures include a review of the training model to ensure it equips trainees for consultant practice and looking into the membership exam to ensure flexibility.

Other recommendations include evaluating the training experience to help improve psychiatric experience and reduce burnout.

And a flexible approach with location of training posts should help with imbalance in fill rates outside the central belt of Scotland.

Another key recommendation is to monitor Scotland specific data on total time taken to complete training and to factor in the increasing trend of less-than-full-time working to ensure workforce projections are more realistic.

Dr Ihsan Kader, consultant psychiatrist workforce lead, Royal College of Psychiatrists in Scotland, said:

“These are worrying findings and as the title of the report suggests psychiatrists are a threatened species if we don’t improve the outlook for trainees.

“There’s a growing trend of doctors opting to leave training and take specialty doctor posts, take career breaks instead of moving directly into higher training. The longer it takes to train the longer it takes for consultants to come through and fill the gaps in our workforce. This reality needs to be factored in to our planning.

“Psychiatrists are needed in the NHS workforce to deliver care and treatment to those in society with severe mental illness and because of the increase in those seeking help - we need a bigger workforce to help keep up with demand. 

“After speaking to trainees on the ground to find out the reasons behind the numbers, we’re determined to make a real difference to allow these doctors to do well in their profession, stay in Scotland and help our patients get the treatment they deserve.”

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