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Alice Lethbridge and Jenny Allan

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board


Becoming a doctor is an extraordinary experience. Working as junior doctors in the NHS, we are also familiar with the challenges and pressures that the job brings. In the midst of a pandemic, looking after our staff has never been so important.

With this in mind, at the start of August 2020, we piloted our F1 Buddy Scheme – a near-peer support scheme which provides all new Foundation Year One (F1) Doctors with a named ‘buddy’ who they can contact for help, advice and support throughout the first year of their careers.

This provides a fantastic opportunity to promote well-being for doctors right at the beginning of their careers and to make sure they feel supported, knowing that they always have someone to talk to if needed.

Civility Saves Lives

We also know that doctors who feel supported and safe within work are more likely to be safer clinicians. This puts the well-being of healthcare professionals right at the heart of patient care.

Here is Dr. Suzettte Woodward (Director of the ‘Sign up to Safety Campaign’) speaking on the importance of promoting kindness to support patient safety:

‘Almost all excellence in healthcare is dependent on teams, and teams work best when all members feel safe and have a voice.’

Here is Dr. Chris Turner (Emergency Medicine Consultant) speaking at TEDXExeter ‘When rudeness in teams turns deadly’:

From the website Civility Saves Lives – a campaign to promote kindness in the workplace in healthcare – there are several pieces of research which support the notion of the impact of friendly workplaces and patient outcomes.

Project Aims:

  • To promote junior doctor well-being and foster kindness, compassion and community spirit within our hospital (and maybe beyond!).
  • To establish a support network of junior doctors within the hospital to enable every new F1 doctor to have an individual named F1 Buddy who they can contact.

To develop a collection of materials for F1 Doctors to support their transition from medical student to doctor.

To evaluate the scheme and the feasibility of introducing this to other centres across the health board – our ambition being every F1 in Wales having an F1 buddy when they start their job.


We needed to co-ordinate a very social project, reliant on communication between multiple people, in a socially-distanced way given the covid-19 restrictions. This encouraged us to adapt and use the virtual world of communication to keep in touch with our F1’s and F1 Buddies – using e-mail and WhatsApp.

We also needed to find new ways of enabling our F1s and F1 Buddies to be able to catch up. Here, we continued to encourage virtual ‘check-ins’ each rotation. We have also been very fortunate with the help of the Doctor’s Mess Committee who have renovated the Mess within our hospital making it a comfortable, relaxing area where F1s and their buddies can meet to catch-up in a socially-distanced way.

Gathering feedback from the scheme has been challenging to engage with the group as a whole due to current restrictions – however we have adapted by using online surveys and WhatsApp as a tool for discussion.

Key Outcomes:

We ran the F1 Buddy Scheme from August 2020 and gathered feedback from our F1s and F1 Buddies by releasing a survey to them each rotation. This has showed some very encouraging results from our first set of feedback.

From the survey:

  • All respondents found it useful to have a named F1 Buddy at the start of the year.
  • All respondents reported that they knew who their F1 Buddy was, knew how to contact them and had been contacted by them for a ‘check-in’ during the rotation.
  • All respondents either strongly agreed (5) or agreed (1) that their F1 Buddy was approachable.
  • All respondents had never been in a position at work where the felt they had no-one to talk to. (This is a great improvement from the initial pilot survey, where 1 in 5 (20%) of previous F1s had felt they had no-one to talk to (this was when the buddy scheme had yet to be established).)

F1 Feedback:

F1 Buddy Feedback:

“Great scheme, thanks guys!!”

6/14 F1 Buddies (43%) had been contacted by their F1 for help/support during their first rotation.

All respondents felt the level of input with their F1 (minimum of 1 x check-in per rotation) was the right level of input for them.

All respondents felt confident to help/support/signpost their F1.

Although, our response rate was from a small cohort of F1s (6/21) and F1 Buddies (14/21), the feedback we have received has been hugely positive with a keen willingness from all respondents to continue the scheme for next year. It may be difficult to measure the exact effect of the scheme in numbers, however, more importantly, we believe fostering a culture of help, support and looking after one another has immeasurable benefits for all involved and is likely to encourage improved teamwork, staff relations which is then likely to contribute to improved patient safety.

Next Steps:

To continue the F1 Buddy Scheme within our hospital and ensure sustainability by handing over the torch to the next generation of F1 Buddies – introducing Dan & Jane current F1s who will be leading the scheme for next year as its new leaders!

If this proves a useful and sustainable template, we hope to be in touch with Postgraduate Centres within our Health Board to discuss the opportunity for rolling this scheme out to other hospitals.

Our Exemplar Experience:

We would like to thank everybody at the Bevan Commission for their encouragement, support and belief in the project. We have felt inspired to be leaders for change in our organisation. Diolch yn fawr!


Alice Lethbridge: