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Searching for the true attrition rate of UK paediatric trainees


Objective To quantitatively analyse the number of doctors leaving the paediatric specialty training (ST) programme in the UK, to assist with evidence-based workforce planning.

Design Data were sought on those leaving the UK paediatrics training programme between 2014 and 2019 from Heads of Schools of Paediatrics and Freedom of Information Act requests.

Setting Retrospective data analysis.

Outcome measures Overall attrition rate, attrition rate across level of training, attrition rate across geographical area, recorded reason for leaving.

Results All results must be interpreted with caution due to limitations in record keeping and analysis. The annual attrition rate across all ST levels between 2014 and 2019 is estimated at 3.7%–4.2% (ie, 749–845 trainees may have left the paediatric training programme over 2014–2019). No reason for leaving was recorded for three-quarters of individuals, around 630 doctors. Of those leaving paediatrics, significantly more (χ², p=0.015) did so at ST3 (20.3%) versus the next highest training year, ST2 (13.6%).

Conclusions This project seems to demonstrate worryingly poor record-keeping of the true attrition rate of paediatric trainees by organisations responsible for workforce planning, including Health Education England, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and individual paediatric schools across the UK. To allow evidence-based workforce planning for the benefit of UK children, it is vital that accurate records on trainees who leave the training programme are kept and shared across the UK.

  • health care economics and organizations
  • health services research
  • data collection
  • statistics

Data availability statement

Data are available on reasonable request. Please contact the authors if you wish to access the datasets used.

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