TENS of thousands of junior doctors are working beyond contracted hours without a break, making them extremely tired which, in turn, puts patients’ lives at risk, a new analysis by the Health Service Journal revealed yesterday.
It shows 60,000 contract breaches reported by junior doctors, with NHS trusts forced to pay out more than £250,000 in fines. This is the first national analysis since the contract was introduced and reveals the scale of demands being placed on junior doctors in the NHS, including regularly being expected to work beyond their contract.
Junior doctors went out on strike time and again in 2015/16 against the new contract being imposed on them which, they rightly insisted, was unsafe and unfair. According to data obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests from more than 200 NHS trusts, there have been 63,309 exception reports from almost 36,000 trainee medics since the introduction of the controversial new junior doctors’ contract in August 2016.
Exception reporting is part of the junior doctors’ contract and allows a doctor to file a report when they work beyond their contracted hours or work without breaks, as well as other contract breaches. According to the data, the highest number of exception reports was 2,569 at London North West Healthcare Trust, which employs 440 junior doctors.
The second highest was 1,935 from over 590 junior doctors working at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust. Juniors also claim they are being actively discouraged from exception reporting.
One trainee at Queen’s Hospital in Romford said: ‘I have experienced a culture where exception reporting is strongly discouraged. ‘When one of the registrars found out I had exception reported he said it was entirely the result of poor time management.’
The trainee added: ‘I have been encouraged by the administrative staff to submit exception reports as locum shifts. This has the effect of reducing the number of reports I send and makes it look like I am working bank shifts rather than exceptional overtime.’