Less than full-time (LTFT) working (when a consultant is contracted to work for less than the normal basic full-time hours, typically 10 sessions per week) can maximise the available workforce of radiologists while improving patient care and allowing radiologists to achieve a better work–life balance.
There has been an increase in the number of healthcare professionals suffering from stress, depression and other illnesses and the most recent January 2015 British Medical Association (BMA) quarterly report indicated that 45% of 512 respondents have made, or are in the process of making, changes to their work-life balance. Generally, NHS consultants are not looking for increased rates of pay to compensate for anti-social hours, rather ‘fair equality of leisure time’, which may be achieved through LTFT working.
From 30 June 2014, every employee has the statutory right to request flexible working, which includes LTFT practices, after 26 weeks employment service. Research shows that up to 75% of women doctors wish to work less than full time or more flexibly at some stage of their career, usually to care for a young family.
The RCR UK workforce census 2014 showed that approximately 40% of current clinical radiology trainees are now female. The increasing proportion of females in the workforce is likely result in increased LTFT working.
Summary of benefits and challenges to working LTFT
- LTFT or flexible working allows doctors to transform their work-life balance whichhas been shown to boost productivity and staff morale.
- LTFT staff have greater resilience including reduced sick leave.
- LTFT doctors initiate and facilitate team working through necessity.
- Individually negotiated job plans mean that there are as many different patterns to LTFT working as there are reasons for working reduced hours.
- Specialist skills deemed critical to local services can be met and maintained, although more general skills may be lost.
- Breakdowns in communication can have longer intervals before coming to light, which may significantly impact on patient care. Handover plans may have to be ‘personalised’ and considered in greater detail than for full-time workers, possibly involving a team approach.
- Many LTFT radiologists must accept that some skill sets will be lost due to insufficient volume of work and limited sessions. New plans for shared responsibility on-call may need to be developed. This may also imply suitable cross-over arrangements for other skill sets that are outside the LTFT clinicians’ competencies.
- Maintaining CPD, including attending educational or clinical governance meetings on days outside routine working, will require additional negotiation.
- Mentoring, although sometimes a formal arrangement, often develops organically. Anecdotal evidence suggests that some of the doctors who are most nurturing and supportive in their working/teaching practice are exactly the people who are in the department the least to act as a role model, encouraging new colleagues to develop an interest in their specialty.
- LTFT radiologists’ contribution to department-wide leave cross cover may be reduced; however, their requests for same are reduced.