Junior doctors need Continuous Professional Development (CPD) in soft skills

Posted on February 29, 2016 by

The CPD Standards Office discusses new contracts for junior doctors and why specific training in soft skills should be included in their mandatory CPD requirements.

Sir David Dalton, Chief Executive, NHS Employers wrote an open letter to the junior doctors on 3rd February 2016 expressing his concerns on the need to reach an agreement to the BMA’s striking action in mid-January. Without an agreement reached, the BMA engaged the 54,000 junior doctor workforce across England to strike again in February.

Junior doctors are unsatisfied with the contract Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health at The Department of Health and NHS Employers are imposing onto them. They believe it is unfair, unsafe and will devalue the service they provide to patients.

The government and NHS Employers aim is to modernise the junior doctors working pay system, deliver better education and training services and improve safety standards.

Better Training and Education

Sir Dalton highlighted the need for better training and proper notice of rotational deployment but this issue was not covered in the press.

Instead, junior doctors have been stigmatised by the media for striking about the amount of little pay they will receive in the new contract (a hashtag ‘#moetmedics’ started trending on twitter, insinuating they lead extravagant lifestyles anyway).

In fact, what makes their job worth more pay is the quality and the commitment to their patients and the NHS health care service.

In order for them to maintain a high quality service, the government and NHS Employers have worked with Higher Education England to align education and training to the national curriculum.

Stressed doctors

Junior doctors are reporting high stressed levels because they work incoherent schedules and yo-yo rotas. Before they know it, there are not enough hours in the week to complete their mandatory CPD training.

Sir Dalton says: “Existing contractual arrangements scarcely reference training – instead focusing on the service contribution that trainee doctors make. Issues include how training opportunities can be missed because of work pressures, the inflexibility around leave and the insufficient notice of training placements which make it difficult for doctors to plan their lives, and the lack of consultant presence at weekends which may contribute to a poorer training experience.”

The BMA confirm that junior doctors feel unable to plan their training effectively so that they can have an enjoyable lifestyle. This reflects badly on how training is structured by NHS Employers.

Current junior doctor CPD requirements

The General Medical Council stipulates junior doctors are responsible for their own CPD and must provide evidence at their annual appraisal to remain fit to practice. Also, the 17 Royal Medical Colleges communicate CPD schemes to doctors so they can maintain professional standards in their speciality. For example, The Royal College of Surgeons requires its members to complete 50 hours of CPD annually.

Continuing professional development (CPD) is defined as the intentional maintenance and development of the knowledge and skills needed to perform in a professional context. CPD is the process of improving current skills through methods such as online e:learning modules, mentoring or instructor led courses.

In order to make training effective, in their 15 years of training before they move to specialised areas of medicine, CPD training must be structured. This means setting goals, objectives and evaluating skills development to align with the job requirements or prepare for potential promotion.

The reason for the government imposing the new contract without room for further negotiation is because junior doctors are kept to a strict timeline of rotation.

CPD Opportunity for the NHS

The NHS Employers training for junior doctors is currently under scrutiny and there is an opportunity for them to invest in trainers that deliver accredited CPD courses in soft skills.

Yvonne Bignall, Partner, International Medical Training Company says: “The barrier to entry into the NHS is that there are so many push backs for external service providers and its in-house medical training system is impossible to get business or open a dialogue with.”

“At times, junior doctors have to lead teams, but as newly qualified graduates, whilst they may have medical intelligence they do not all have the self-confidence or experience in leadership skills for busy teams working under pressure.”

Bignall points out that: “These skills are not just a ‘nice to have’, they are ‘need to have’. No one wants to have a doctor that is brash because they are stressed or one that does not engage with their feelings through good listening.”

Speaking from a personal angle, Bignall’s says: “We have a family member who is a newly qualified junior doctor and said she does not receive training that could help her professionally.”

In Yvonne’s family’s case, she would benefit from setting her own CPD objectives to fulfil her medical career goals. The demands she will face as a junior doctor, to lead a team during A&E for example could be daunting unless she prepares herself professionally for them.

The NHS Employers should work with junior doctors to structure CPD learning to develop their professional skills. By strategically aligning the individual objectives with business ones, the NHS would benefit as an organisation.

NHS medical training and education schemes should better align CPD courses such as the ones below:

  • Leadership and Management
  • Professional Communication
  • Team work and Communication
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Personal Effectiveness
  • Listening
  • Time Management
  • Dealing with criticism

CPD requirements are mandatory for junior doctors to remain legally qualified and it is important that their modules help them develop effectively and professionally.

The CPD Standards Office assesses trainers against specific criteria, based on academic research, and accredits them with a high quality accredited mark.

Amanda Rosewarne, Director of CPD Accreditation and Research at the CPD Standards Office adds: “Developing soft skills is a crucial training strategy for NHS Employers as junior doctors work in highly pressurised environments and must learn to manage work performance expectations of themselves and of others.”

“We advise medical training providers in our assessment process how to deliver highly effective CPD material to their delegates which is based on a five year university-led research project. When we have successfully accredited the medical training providers, they can ultimately deliver engaging content that will help junior doctors to continue to practice in confidence.

As the debate between the BMA, the government and NHS Employers continues over junior doctor contracts, training providers have a great opportunity to promote better learning practices for the medical sector.


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6 responses to “Junior doctors need Continuous Professional Development (CPD) in soft skills”

  1. CPD should just be an extension of life long learning, and be sought after by all professionals. Whilst some CPD should be deemed essential by the ‘governing bodies’, other learning opportunities should be offered in line with seniority of appointment. I personally sometimes dip in and out of various CPD as a Chief Executive; sometimes it may be HR sometimes it may be finance or licensing – it is always good to have a certain level of information when managing other specialities. In the case of the doctors we should be very clear what we want them to do. In my opinion they should stick to the delivery of clinical medical services and not be trained as managers or secretaries;

  2. Our CPD accredited courses, private tuition face-to-face and Skype lessons in TESOL (English as a foreign language) can eliminate or reduce stress for foreign speakers and help native English speakers with grammar, so ought to be included in the list of training schemes. Highly qualified consultants, doctors and nurses from overseas do not always know NHS medical short-forms, common phrases and day-to-day vocabulary after work. Every little detail counts, to create a quality life, and if the language flows it makes room for self-care and patient care.

  3. I totally agree! We run accredited Leadership & Management training specifically for Junior Doctors to help them make the transition to Consultant. It is amazing that junior doctors get so little training in this area, and it is very rewarding to us that we ca make a difference to so many people.The feedback we get is always excellent.

  4. If something affects one part of a system; it affects the whole. I set up my training business directly because of my experience as an Occupational Therapist working in the NHS. The workloads are excessive, there is not enough investment in staff wellbeing so there is not enough support. Often there is in-fighting and in real terms you can be left feeling at your lowest ebb. It is through my direct experience of all the above (and the strategies I put in place to successfully rise above the stress at work) that I set up my business which focusses on ways to champion your self-leadership in the face of such adversity in the workplace. This training has been widely acclaimed by many health professionals.
    I’m glad this training has been CPD Accredited by The CPD Standards Office.

  5. The BMA also provide an exciting portfolio of CPD approved career training and support services on site at Trusts, a selection of which are aimed at Junior Doctors. bma.org.uk/careers

  6. I didn’t realise the impact of poor ‘soft skills’ until I overheard some patients talking about them. And it really opened my eyes. And now I wish I could reveal my discoveries and secrets of masterful communication to more young Doctors across the country.

    Good communication is hidden in plain view. We mostly notice when things go wrong. When it works well we rarely spot it. But we should. That’s where the learning is. So some exciting, innovative and non -threatening (no role-play and no Powerpoint) methods of teaching could be of huge benefit to so many.

    Wouldn’t you want to know how to assure people through strategic use of voice tone or dissolve anger purely non-verbally or even generate motivation in others by simply asking questions? You’re not alone.

    You have to use good communication to teach good communication.

    Managing emotions can be far less painful than is usually taught, easy behaviour change is now almost a science and as for influence and persuasion….well here isn’t the place to reveal the most effort free, high impact techniques.

    As Claire Burns a recent workshop participant said “If I’d know all this when I was training it would have prevented a lot of painful experiences and I’d have still learnt the lessons.” So keep going all of you in this field. The more we share good inter-personal skills the more we all benefit.