Personal reflection of LTFT

Dr Sara Davies MBBCh BSc MRCPsych MD 

General Adult Consultant Psychiatrist

After qualifying in Manchester in 1995, I initially worked full time in Psychiatry in London, in clinical and academic work. I had the benefit of observing influential senior Consultant colleagues work effectively in a job share arrangement to enable productive clinical and non-clinical aspects of work in research and service development. Following the birth of my first child in 1995, I decided to relocate to Manchester and then Yorkshire, since when I have worked continuously LTFT. I completed Higher Trainee as a ‘flexible trainee’ as LTFT training was then described, managing to complete my MD and required outstanding Higher Training. It was a challenge to incorporate clinical as well as non-clinical aspects of my training, when working only 3 days a week. I was helped by supportive trainers, excellent childcare, and by being organised, to ensure that no clinical work was left from one week to the next. But I had the advantage of being able to do more clinical posts over a longer period of time which helped my skill base. Unfortunately I was unable to continue with academic work, while working overall reduced hours each week. 

I was fortunate to start my Consultant career in 1999 in a job share arrangement in Manchester with a highly experienced colleague who wanted to reduce to work part time. We both worked 3 days, at opposite ends of each week, with a shared ‘handover day’ on a Wednesday. We had separate clinical responsibilities, but covered for each other’s absences each week and annual and study leave. This succeeded because of our mutual respect, similar working styles, frequent and detailed communication, 8.30 meeting each Wednesday morning, and including a handover book for complex issues. We also latterly took on a shared managerial role.

Since 2003, I have moved to work in Yorkshire in a part time Consultant capacity, initially 3 and then 4 days a week, across different community and inpatient rehabilitation posts. I have needed to remain focused on time management, clear on handover and cover arrangements, and developmental needs. Because of my part time hours and challenging work-life juggle (and childcare needs), I initially struggled compared to full time colleagues, to be able to professionally develop outside immediate clinical roles. However in the last 10 years, (probably due to changing childcare needs), I have been able to develop enhanced clinical and satisfying non-clinical areas of work, including education and training roles, College responsibilities and Trust roles. I think this has remained challenging, but has been achieved through honed time management skills, supportive colleagues, clarity on roles and responsibilities, and flexibility and increased working outside contracted hours. However, I am eternally greatly appreciative of the ability to do meaningful work alongside a rewarding work life balance.

Top tips for effective LTFT working: 

  1. Used honed organisational skills, and then hone them some more.
  2. Prioritise clarity with your clinical and other teams as to your timetable, availability, cover arrangements, and options when you are not available. 
  3. Sharpen mindful ability to focus on the job in hand, while accepting some flexibility.
  4. Construct a 1, 2 and 5 year plan (accepting that it may not go to plan!)
  5. Be realistic about what you can achieve
  6. Remember that you will ultimately be judged by the quality of the work that you do rather than the hours that you work.