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Gaps in rotas put squeeze on juniors

BMA fears patient care and safety could suffer if doctors have to work too hard

OnMedica staff

Monday, 31 March 2008

Patient care could be affected by pressures on junior doctors to work extra hours, says the BMA.

Its survey finds nearly three out of every ten said there was a least one vacancy on their rota. Some doctors said there were four or five gaps to the full staff quota.

The trade union sent a postal survey to its UK members in February. Results from 432 responses are from doctors working between 8 February and 19 March, 2008.

Such gaps meant both junior and sometimes senior doctors were stepping in to work extra hours or could be pushed into doing so by colleagues. This could lead to increased stress and bullying, the doctors’ organisation says, and warns medics to be alert to rota pattern changes.

The gaps are as a result of the medical training system that began last year, says the BMA. Trusts only had one opportunity to recruit juniors under this and could not do so when posts became vacant later on.

Mr Ram Moorthy, chairman of the BMA's Junior Doctors Committee, said: "This was a problem that employers and the government could and should have foreseen. It’s unfair that doctors are having to prop up rotas without being paid for it. If the problem continues it can only damage the quality of patient care."

In a statement the Department of Health responded: "We understand the theory that the single timetable for specialty training recruitment in 2007 might be a contributor and that is partly why we are moving to a three-phase timetable in 2008, but there may be other factors. We are talking to the NHS, to the medical profession and others about potential solutions."

The BMA has specific advice for juniors on what to do about covering gaps in staff rotas on its website.

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