‘Overworked trainee doctors put patients at risk’

Overworked trainee doctors may be putting their patients at risk. Picture: Reuters
Overworked trainee doctors may be putting their patients at risk. Picture: Reuters
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TRAINEE doctors are tired and stressed due to their working patterns, potentially putting patients at risk, a report suggests.

• Trainee doctors who are tired and stressed are putting their patients at risk, a report has suggested

• GMC said some doctors were working nearly 100 hours a week during busiest shifts, increasing potential for mistakes

The General Medical Council (GMC) said their research showed that some doctors may still be working nearly 100 hours a week during their busiest shifts, which increased the potential for mistakes to be made.

It comes after regulations were introduced to limit the hours trainee doctors can work to 48 hours a week, averaged over 26 weeks. But this still means doctors can face long shifts over several days before they get a break.

Interviews with 82 trainee doctors found that while they were now working fewer hours, they also did more shift work which left some suffering fatigue and admitting there were times when they performed poorly.

Some also complained that they got less access to training opportunities, due to the unsocial hours they were working, and that the situation led to a lack of continuity in the out-of-hours care of patients.

While many said the working time regulations had improved their work-life balance, others said they had less time to manage their workload due to badly designed and under-staffed rotas.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the GMC, said: “It is clear the current system is not working as it should – in some cases doctors are still too tired and there are issues around continuity and training opportunities.

“We must never go back to the ridiculous hours worked in the past when patients were routinely put at risk by exhausted young doctors, but the current system is too complex and the way it is implemented far from satisfactory.”

A spokesman for NHS Education for Scotland said: “The safety of both patients and doctors alike remains paramount and this report emphasises the importance of those responsible for training working collaboratively with service providers in designing rotas and supporting systems that ensure this is the case.

“It is essential that good practice is shared and continuing effort is focused on identifying solutions for specific areas of practice that remain challenging.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We continue to provide support to NHS Boards around the implementation of the Working Times Regulations and the New Deal Contract for Doctors in Training.

“All rotas in NHS Scotland have been assessed for both Working Time compliance and educational suitability, and the majority of NHS boards have now eliminated the use of rotas where staff are expected to work seven night shifts in a row.”