Intended for healthcare professionals

Feature The BMJ Round Table

It’s the workforce, stupid

BMJ 2016; 352 doi: (Published 17 March 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;352:i1510
  1. Gareth Iacobucci, news reporter, The BMJ
  1. giacobucci{at}

With experts assessing that the NHS is in the grip of the biggest crisis in its history, The BMJ hosted a roundtable discussion during the Nuffield Trust health policy summit this month to discuss whether today’s medical workforce is fit for the future needs of the health service. Gareth Iacobucci reports

Doctors’ morale

Junior doctor Saira Ghafur told the panel how her colleagues are feeling against the backdrop of an ongoing industrial dispute with the government:

“Everyone is just frustrated, angry, disappointed. People are talking about resigning, people are going abroad. Some of my colleagues who have become consultants are going abroad now after however many years of training in the UK. You just think, ‘This is a complete and utter waste of everyone’s training time here and we’re not coming back into the NHS.’”

Richard Jones is a clinical director at a hospital in Portsmouth and drew an interesting comparison between medicine and the Navy:

“Morale is so important because it does determine discretionary effort. As soon as doctors, nurses, and others stop going above and beyond then we really do have a crisis. I’m an unabashed fan of how the Royal Navy does this. When a captain in charge of a warship makes an important decision, right at the beginning he weighs that decision against two variables. The first is, ‘How will this decision affect operational capability in our performance?’ And the second is, ‘How will this decision affect morale?’”

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine’s president, Cliff Mann, expanded on Jones’s point, arguing that morale was the key driver to recruitment and retention of staff. “We talk a lot about the workforce of the future, but we need to understand that the workforce of the future will have to be treated by the …

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