Educational supervision (ES) is considered to be an essential component of basic specialist training in psychiatry in the UK. However, previous studies have indicated variation in its provision, and uncertainty about structure and content. Workplace-based assessments (WPBAs) were introduced in 2007 as part of major postgraduate medical training reform. Placing considerable time demands on trainees and supervisors alike, the extent to which WPBAs should utilise ES time has not been specified. As ES and WPBAs have discrete (although complementary) functions, there is the potential for this increased emphasis on assessment to displace other educational needs.
All junior doctors and their educational supervisors in one UK psychiatry training scheme were surveyed both before and after the introduction of WPBAs. Frequency and duration of ES were established, and structure, content and process were ascertained. Opinions on usefulness and responsibility were sought. The usage of ES for WPBAs was also assessed.
The response rate of 70% showed general agreement between trainees and supervisors, but some significant discrepancies. Around 60% reported 1 hour of ES taking place weekly or 3 times per month. Most agreed that responsibility for ES should be shared equally between trainees and supervisors, and ES was largely seen as useful. Around 50% of trainees and supervisors used 25–50% of ES time for WPBAs, and this did not appear to affect the usefulness of ES or the range of issues covered.
ES continues to be an important component of psychiatric training. However, using ES for WPBAs introduces the potential for tension between trainees' education and their assessment by emphasising certain training issues at the expense of others. The impact of reduced training time, WPBAs and uncertainties over ES structure and content should be monitored to ensure that its benefits are maximised by remaining tailored to individual trainees' needs.