SLEEP-deprived junior doctors, subjected to an ever increasing heavy workload, are losing out on vital training and this, in turn, is impacting patient care, a survey by the General Medical Council (GMC) revealed yesterday.
The 2016 national training survey, asked 55,000 junior doctors about the conditions they face in the NHS while training. Over half of doctors in training reported that they regularly work beyond their rostered hours, and up to 25% said their working patterns left them sleep-deprived on a weekly basis – a worsening trend in recent years.
Overall, more than 43% of doctors reported their daytime workload as ‘very heavy’ or ‘heavy’, an increase since 2012. Responding to the GMC’s 2016 national training survey, Dr Pete Campbell, BMA junior doctors committee chair, said: ‘Patients and the public may be shocked by these findings, but no junior doctor will be surprised. It is still far too common that junior doctors are left sleep-deprived after regularly working beyond their rostered hours, on rotas that are desperately short of doctors.
‘We cannot accept a situation where vital training time is being sacrificed in the face of rising pressures on services. This is a short-sighted approach that is already having an impact on the quality of patient care.’
The GMC’s Chief Executive, Charlie Massey, has written to employers – trusts and boards – reminding them of their obligations to ensure training of doctors is protected. He said: ‘We know the very real pressures our healthcare services are under and appreciate the challenges organisations involved with the training of doctors are facing, but it is vital training is not eroded.
‘Those responsible and accountable for the delivery of medical education locally must take appropriate steps to ensure the training of doctors remains protected. Medical training is so often a bellwether for the quality and safety of patient care and patients are directly at risk if support and supervision of doctors in training are inadequate.
‘We have clear standards about protecting doctors’ training, and valuing trainers, that we expect education bodies and providers to meet. Where our standards are not met, we can and we will take action.’
The results of the national training survey come a month after the GMC raised concerns, in its annual report The state of medical education and practice in the UK, that large numbers of doctors in training feel undervalued and are working in healthcare systems which are under significant and growing pressure.