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Careers Data chart

More doctors are taking a break from training after foundation programme

BMJ 2019; 364 doi: (Published 27 February 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;364:l842
  1. Tom Moberly, UK editor,
  2. Will Stahl-Timmins, data graphics designer
  1. The BMJ
  1. tmoberly{at}

Less than 40% of doctors in training now move directly into specialty training after the foundation programme, data from the UK Foundation Programme Office show.1

In 2018, 37.7% of the doctors who completed foundation training went straight into core training, a run through training programme, or another specialty training post in the UK.

The proportion of doctors who choose to go straight from foundation training to specialty training has fallen steadily in recent years. In 2010, 83.1% of doctors went into specialty training in the UK after completing foundation training. By 2016, this had fallen to 50.4%.

These figures are derived from a survey carried out by the UK Foundation Programme Office. In 2018, 6407 doctors responded to the survey, representing 86.8% of those of who completed the programme.

Most doctors who don’t go straight into specialty training do return to medical training. Research by the GMC shows that 90% of doctors who complete foundation training do this within three years, and within five years of completing foundation training 93% of doctors have returned to UK training.2

The BMA says that there are a number of reasons that more doctors are choosing to take a break from training after completing the foundation programme.3 These include the desire for time out after years of intense work, the pressures of training, and the desire to gain additional experience that may be helpful to applications later in the career pathway.

Among doctors who choose not to go straight into specialty training, the most popular option is to take up a non-training medical role in the UK. This is what 17.6% of those completing the training programme in 2018 opted to do. A further 14.8% were not currently practising medicine after completing the foundation programme, 5.3% had taken up an appointment outside the UK, and 7.4% were still looking for a medical job.