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Working flexibly: A toolkit

This toolkit discusses opportunities for physicians to work flexibly as an alternative to leaving the NHS and provides examples of flexible ways of working, as well as top tips for doctors at different stages of their career.

The NHS Long Term Plan outlines workforce shortage as one of the biggest challenges facing the healthcare service. There is currently a healthcare workforce crisis as there are not enough UK trainees to fill vacant posts and many healthcare workers are leaving the health service prematurely.

The medical workforce is changing demographically and wants to work differently; the traditional route of full-time clinical training with direct progression to a full-time consultant post until retirement may not work for everyone. Flexible working offers an alternative to leaving the NHS.

This toolkit follows discussions at the ‘Stopping the exodus, solutions!’ conference which took place on 16 September 2019 at the Royal College of Physicians. Flexible working takes a variety of forms, including:

  • training, or working, less than full time
  • taking breaks from the traditional training route to create a portfolio career
  • working full time, but not 5 long days
  • working a different pattern in term time compared with school holidays
  • working out of hours to earn a sabbatical
  • working in other areas, such as research, management and education
  • retiring and returning.

This toolkit showcases ‘tried and tested’ examples of physicians working flexibly and provides top tips for physicians at different stages of their career, as well as advice on discussing flexible working with their employers.