ONLY two junior doctors were left in charge to care for for 436 patients on a night shift which they have said was ‘very unsafe,’ drawing attention to the staffing crisis in the NHS which has now reached critical levels.
One of the two junior doctors said he was extremely sleep-deprived before starting the night shift and that patients were put at risk. The incident took place at Plymouth Hospital where the pressures on staff have got so bad that an anonymous whistle blower at the Derriford hospital raised the alarm.
Derriford Hospital in Plymouth has a startling 101 unfilled junior doctor vacancies.
The report was published as part of the Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust board papers from July, and said the doctor was pulled from a breast surgery day job at 11am to be asked to cover medical nights.
A diary of a junior surgeon reveals the depth of the crisis at the hospital. He said: ‘Pulled from breast surgery day job at 11am and told I must come in and cover medical nights overnight for the rest of the week, despite being on surgery.
‘Told on the phone that the deputy medical director had talked to my consultant and said I must do this, as there would otherwise only be a single Senior House Officer (SHO) looking after all of the medical patients in the hospital.
‘After discussion with my consultant we reluctantly agreed that the best measure from a patient safety perspective would be for me to attend this shift, despite it being unsafe and bad for my personal training/development.
‘Unfortunately, I did not manage much sleep before coming in for the night due to the short notice.
‘Between myself and the other SHO on ward cover we were responsible for the care of 436 patients between the two of us, while carrying the crash bleep which covers the whole hospital. Made a record of the unsafe environment and want it to be noted while having done our best, this was a very unsafe shift from the patient perspective.’
Meanwhile a black alert has been called at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge because of a lack of beds. GPs have been asked not to refer patients to the hospital unless it is absolutely necessary. Black alerts are usually associated with the NHS winter crisis, so to declare one in September is extremely unusual.
After declaring the ‘critical internal incident’, the trust sent a message to all GPs asking them to refer their patients elsewhere. Addenbrooke’s Hospital, part of Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, sent out the letter to GPs last Thursday morning.
The letter says the incident, which is still ongoing, is due to ‘bed capacity issues’. GP leaders warned it would create additional work for practices and that such an early-season ‘black alert’ was not boding well for winter.