Wednesday, 17 Apr 2024

Workload of junior doctors ‘puts patient lives at risk’, dossier reveals

Junior doctors vote for 72-hour strike in March

A dossier of damning safety concerns from junior doctors has revealed how hospital patients’ lives are being put at risk by dangerous levels of understaffing.

Some medics, just weeks out of the classroom, had been left in charge as sickness and workloads dragged more senior staff away.

One told how their workload led them to collapse while another was so exhausted she ended up in tears.

It comes after the British Medical Association announced more junior doctors strikes from this Wednesday until Saturday.

It warned members are prepared to “strike throughout the summer” unless the Government “puts forward a credible” pay rise.

Junior doctors say their own health has suffered, they have had to work dangerously long hours and the safety of patients is in jeopardy.

All the claims are made in exception reports which they have been able to lodge with hospital management if they think working practices are dangerous.

A Freedom of Information survey of NHS Trusts found there were dozens of these reports.

In one complaint, a doctor at the East Kent Hospitals NHS Trust wrote: “Worked all night in A&E and did not get a single hour of sleep.

“Working for 24 hours straight. Safety concerns were raised at handover in front of four consultants as I was crying during the ward round due to a stressful situation.”

At the East Sussex Healthcare Trust one doctor said they ended up shouldering the duties of two and this stopped them from having any time for breaks or food during an entire 13-hour shift.

They wrote: “This level of workload made it very difficult to deliver optimal patient care and risked compromising patient safety and my own health.”

And at the Royal Free London Trust a doctor expressed grave concerns about the safety on the children’s ward as mental health patients were being admitted without the necessary staff to care for them.

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It was highlighted by an incident where a young patient became violent and injured three members of staff as they battled to restrain them.

The doctor wrote: “It is completely unfair that they are being asked to work in an environment in which our own personal safety in not guaranteed.”

Dr Latifa Patel, BMA representative body chair, said: “No doctor deserves to work in horrendous conditions while not being valued or supported to do their job properly.

“The continual devaluation of the lifesaving work we do is driving doctors away and will put others off from joining the profession.”

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “If we are to build a stronger NHS it is vital to have the workforce to support it – and their health and wellbeing is of paramount importance.

“We will publish a workforce plan shortly to ensure we have the right numbers of staff, with the right skills to transform and deliver high quality services fit for the future.”

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