27 June 2012
NHS Medical Director, Sir Bruce Keogh, has publically admitted that the period when junior doctors start their new jobs in the first week of August puts patients in English hospitals at risk.
There have wide spread concerns for some time about the dangers to patients during what has been described as a “killing season”. However, this is the first time that the risk to patients has been publically acknowledged by a senior NHS executive.
In 2009, a study conducted by the Dr Foster Unit at Imperial College concluded that people admitted to English hospitals on the first Wednesday in August have, on average, a six percent higher mortality rate than people admitted on the previous Wednesday.
Sir Bruce Keogh outlined measures that will now be implemented to protect patients during the period that junior doctors are starting their new jobs. First-year junior doctors will now have to shadow a senior colleague for a minimum of four days before taking up their positions. Although a shadowing scheme is already in place in NHS hospitals, this has to date only been unpaid and voluntary.
, medical negligence
partner at Leigh Day & Co says of this announcement:
“Whilst we welcome these basic reforms, we are disappointed that they have not been introduced earlier, given that the risk to patients during this period has been widely recognised for some time. Sadly, for our clients who have fallen victim to the inexperience of new doctors in August these reforms are unfortunately too late.
We remain concerned as to whether the four day shadowing period will be sufficient for junior doctors to prepare for their new roles and whether these safeguarding measures will go far enough to protect patients”.
, clinical negligence
solicitor at Leigh Day & Co, questions whether similar safeguarding measures should be in place to protect patients from errors of locum doctors commencing work in roles and/or hospitals which are new them. She has been working with the family of a woman who died following errors by a locum doctor who was only on his second shift at a hospital and she reports, “Our client’s mother was bleeding to death whilst the locum doctor on the ward was looking through a phone directory trying to find the appropriate contact details for medical assistance… We would like to see a similar mandatory shadowing period for locum staff to ensure that all staff are adequately prepared for a new role and new hospital environment in order to avoid similar tragedies occurring in the future.”
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