48 hour week a ticking time bomb for future doctors skills
A survey of 500 junior doctors reveals the 48 hour week restriction is a ticking time bomb for UK hospitals as our next generation of doctors battle to find time to balance service delivery with other essential experience needed to progress their careers.
At a time when skills shortages already exist, two thirds of junior doctors agreed that the restriction introduced last August has had a detrimental effect on training, with one trainee surgeon claiming that opportunities have been reduced to such an extent that, in 10-15 years time, the NHS will find itself with a generation of surgeons who cant operate.
The study, carried out by healthcare staffing provider, PULSE and medeConnect, the research arm of Doctors.net.uk, set out to explore the impact of the European Working Time Directive (EWTD) on junior doctor career progression and found that just seven months down the line:
More than three quarters of junior doctors believed that the EWTD implementation has resulted in trends towards poorly managed rotas, insufficient cover on wards and a lack of training opportunities.
Just 16% agreed that it had resulted in an increase of study time available.
Less than one third says it has reduced levels of fatigue for junior doctors.
Almost half of those who said that the 48 hour week restriction has been detrimental to the quality of their training indicated that no one checks that they dont exceed their legal working hours limit.
When asked why the restriction has hindered career progression, junior doctors cited too much time being spent on service provision due to staff shortages as a key barrier. Mismanaged rotas leading to senior house officers not present at clinics or on theatre lists when consultants are was also cited as a key reason. A lack of continuity of training with the same consultant in clinical sessions was another issue.
Kate Harris, spokesperson for PULSE, commented: It is a travesty that we find ourselves in this situation. At a time when skills shortages already exist, we should be doing everything possible to up skill our doctors, not hinder their career progression. A more creative approach from Trusts to workforce management will allow doctors to gain the balance of skills they need. Planned temporary cover is one way of addressing the rota gap issue so that, for example, doctors dont get caught up covering for colleagues and can spend valuable time in the operating theatre shadowing consultants.