Clinical oncology is a research-driven specialty: understanding the science underpinning our practice and demonstrating benefit through clinical trials is how we improve care for our patients. As such, academic clinical oncology - in its many different forms - is an integral part of our specialty. This has been demonstrated during the COVID-19 pandemic where UK trials and research have supported challenging clinical decisions with benefits to patients and radiotherapy departments. The RCR has a responsibility to nurture our academic trainees and facilitate their transition into future cancer research leaders. It is particularly important that we act on this responsibility now. Academic trainees have willingly contributed to the delivery of extensive changes within clinical services. Retaining these trainees in clinical roles beyond that which is necessitated by the pandemic may have a detrimental impact upon both their individual progression and the future development of academic clinical oncology. The National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) have recognised the urgent need to support clinical academic trainees returning from the COVID-19 "frontline". They have provided a clear and detailed document that the RCR supports fully.
In particular, the RCR emphasises the importance of:
- Ensuring that trainees able to return to academic work (whether out-of-programme or as part of integrated academic training) are openly supported and facilitated to rapidly do so.
- Assessment of individual trainee needs.
- Enabling flexible working to allow trainees to balance clinical, academic and personal commitments.
- Protection of academic time during future COVID-19 surges.
- Ensuring that time spent in clinical practice during the COVID-19 pandemic is recognised as part of overall training to ensure timely progression.
Published 30 June 2020