BMA Highlight Junior Doctors Shortage

A shortage of younger doctors is putting a strain on the health service.

The British Medical Association (BMA) has uncovered Department of Health data which suggests that junior doctor staffing rotas in the UK were short by almost 3,000.

The figures relate to the period up to the end of 2008 and the BMA fears this problem has got worse.

This is as a result of inadequate preparations prior to the implementation of the 48 hour week, which came into force for junior doctors in August.

Dr Shree Datta, the newly elected leader of the BMA's Junior Doctors Committee said: "Inadequate staffing is putting a huge strain on the NHS. A football manager would not start a match with 10 men, yet many junior doctors work in understaffed teams every day.

"The problem of understaffed rotas has worsened because the Government has mishandled changes to the immigration system leading to many overseas doctors, who used to fill the staffing shortfall, leaving the UK.

"Poor preparations for the working time directive are likely to have exacerbated the problem," the doctors' leader insisted.

Dr Datta said that inadequate staffing levels were also a key factor in the "appalling standard of care exposed at Mid Staffordshire Hospital", for example.

"Doctors working on understaffed rotas have serious concerns about standards of patient care.

"For too long the NHS has relied on junior doctors working beyond their contracted hours, the time has come to stop papering over the cracks and deal with the issue," the top doctor continued.

"Solutions will not be found until we have honesty. We cannot continue to rely on junior doctors working extra unpaid hours to prop up our healthcare system.

"Hospitals unable to cope with the challenges of the working time directive need to take a close look at how they organise staff rotas.

"Greater use of non-resident doctors to work on-call could provide more flexibility. Efforts must also be made to reduce inappropriate work and unnecessary bureaucracy so that junior doctors offer patients the standard of care they deserve," Dr Datta said.

"In the current economic climate it is paramount that the NHS is run efficiently. The BMA has been calling for the problem of understaffed rotas to be addressed for years.

"It is high time the Government started to work with the profession to solve the understaffing problems so that junior doctors can deliver high quality care to their patients and receive the training they need to be the consultants of tomorrow."

A junior doctors leader in Northern Ireland has already highlighted workforce shortages and similarly linked this to implementation of the European Working Time Directive.

See: BMA Calls For More NI Doctors

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