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Scrutinise missed rota deadlines just like A&E wait times, urges BMA

‘Significant delays’ in junior doctors getting their rotas for new placements next month

Caroline White

Friday, 27 July 2018

Hospitals who miss junior doctor rota deadlines should be held to account in the same way as they are over missed four-hour A&E targets, insists the BMA, after what appear to be “significant delays” in junior doctors receiving their rotas ahead of starting new placements next month.

The Code of Practice between training providers and employers, which the BMA renegotiated in England in 2016, stipulates that junior doctors should be told where they are working a minimum of three months before starting the job.

Trainees should then receive a generic schedule eight weeks before their post starts and get their personalised rota – which tells them when they are working– two weeks later.

This means they should have all the information needed to begin their role a minimum of six weeks before they start a placement at a hospital.

But junior doctors have been contacting the BMA to say that they still had not received their August rotas, while others have had job offers changed at the last minute.

The BMA’s junior doctors committee says that hospitals who don’t give trainees proper notice of their rotas should face the same scrutiny as those which fail to meet four-hour A&E wait targets, after many doctors came forward to say they still hadn’t received their working hours.

BMA junior doctor representatives are now urging NHS Improvement and the Care Quality Commission (CQC), to make hospitals’ and training providers’ performance against these targets a key benchmark for deciding whether they are providing safe, high-quality care. This would bring these targets in line with those for the four-hour A&E wait time.

Earlier this year, the BMA and NHS Employers published new rostering guidance, establishing how rosters should be created, maintained, and under what conditions they can be changed. This guidance describes how integral these practices are to the safe staffing of services.

Dr Jeeves Wijesuriya, BMA junior doctors committee chair, said: “The process of starting a new job is stressful enough at the best of times, without the added uncertainty of not knowing where or when you’re due to be working in just a few days’ time.

“Doctors who make an invaluable contribution to our NHS deserve to be given proper notice of rotas and working hours, which is why we insisted on deadlines to be written into the Code of Practice two years ago. So to see hospitals and training providers continuing to miss them is wholly unacceptable.”

The delays would mean that doctors would have to put their lives on hold, leaving them unable to plan for caring responsibilities, major family events, and annual leave, he insisted.

After successful lobbying by the BMA, NHS Improvement is now collecting the data on hospitals’ performance against these rota deadlines, he said.

“And we now urge them to publish this information, and use it to hold them to account. In the same way, it must now be treated with the same gravity by the CQC as the four-hour A&E target.

“Given the impact on not only the workforce, but our ability to deliver healthcare, NHS performance on meeting these deadlines must be subject to scrutiny and sanctions when there is a failure to deliver.”

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