Hospital Dr News

Gaps in hospital rotas putting doctors under pressure and patients at risk

There are too few doctors on hospital shifts and its forcing those that are on duty to take on the work of more than one doctor.

The report by the BMA reveals the extent to which gaps in doctors’ rotas are impacting the delivery of care, limiting access to training and contributing to low morale amongst staff.

Key findings from the survey of over 1000 doctors include:

  • More than two-thirds of doctors (68%) had been asked to act up into more senior roles or cover for more junior colleagues adding greater pressures to inexperienced doctors;
  • More than three in four (80%) said that individuals are encouraged to take on the workload of multiple staff;
  • Two in three (65%) said medical trainees are pressured to take on extra shifts;
  • More than a third (34.6%) reported that their employers had re-designed rotas to include fewer doctors;
  • There was evidence of cover being provided by doctors working without the appropriate senior clinical supervision, with 21.8% reporting having worked an on-call shift and 17.7% reporting having worked a weekend shift in this way.

The BMA is calling on the government to tackle the root causes of rota gaps, primarily by providing investment to recruit and retain more medical staff.

Furthermore, the union has identified some practical solutions and examples of good practice to mitigate the negative impact of gaps in rotas.

Among the key recommendations are:

  • More effective long-term workforce planning to anticipate rota gaps with the use of focus groups to work towards addressing and managing the issues arising;
  • Improving access to medical training for doctors with more flexible training pathways to ensure competence is not compromised;
  • Improvements to IT so that there is full implementation of the NHS e-referral service and ensuring that all employers have properly adopted e-rostering systems.

BMA junior doctor committee deputy chair, Dr Pete Campbell, said: “With many doctors beginning new placements this week, these findings highlight the scale of rota gap issues across the country and bring to light the severity of the problems we face.

“As well as being placed at increased risk of burnout and stress, doctors are being routinely failed by missing out on important training and career development opportunities which has an obvious impact on morale and work satisfaction, undermining our ability to deliver high-quality care in the future.

“With significant recruitment and retention issues throughout medical specialties across the country, the government must finally recognise how serious this problem is and address the huge recruitment and retention issues facing us.”

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