New evidence exposing the
extent of junior doctor understaffing
THE 'mind the rota gap' project
asked Junior Doctors to highlight the shortage of Doctors that NHS Hospitals
currently face. The results show a snapshot of an NHS struggling to cope with
understaffing of its Hospital departments.
Junior Doctors responded to email and social media requests for them to report
this data. Rota gaps occur when a Hospital or department is unable to cover the
working shift pattern required to manage patients, due to the lack of Doctors.
► More than 25% of respondents who identified a rota gap stated their rota was
short of 4 or more Junior Doctors.
► 21% of rota gaps were not being covered in any capacity ie. they were left empty
► 77% reported their rota gaps were not being covered by a sustainable model ie.
no cover, by a short term locum appointment, or by existing staff taking on
These findings support the recent workforce survey carried out the Royal College
of Paediatrics and Child Health which found that more than one in four senior
paediatric trainee posts are unfilled, and over half of paediatric units are not
meeting recommended staffing standards.
Doctors' comments identified serious potential dangers for patients of these
One Emergency Medicine trainee stated:- "I have noticed increased workload
recently due to rota gaps. The expectations of me are to see patients quickly in
A&E, make a diagnosis and start treatment. There are times I can feel out of my
depth, but there is often a lack of senior support available to take advice
from. Despite my best efforts, the combination of less time to see patients and
lack of senior input has affected the quality of care provided."
Junior Doctors consistently described situations of high stress, tiredness, and
struggling to cope with the demand. This is exacerbated by the constant pressure
to take on more shifts to fill the gaps.
Anaesthetics Trainee:- "There is increased stress as I have had to cover a
busy Paediatric Intensive Care Unit on my own when there should have been two
Doctors covering it. There has been less support around so I have to cope with
more difficult cases alone."
Paediatrics Trainee:- "There are constant calls, at all hours of the day,
asking if I can cover shifts as no locum has been found. With the stress of
feeling you are letting the team down if you say no to a shift."
This issue impacts on training of Doctors who are going to be the future
consultants of the NHS.
Oncology Trainee:- "Over the last 5 years issues with gaps, pressure on
delivering a safe service and just making sure we are seeing patient has led to
huge issues with training. Cancer is a rapidly developing speciality with new
innovations all the time, but at the moment, with covering rota gaps in
oncology, and being ask to cover my other medical colleagues who are missing
just to keep the patient's safe means that future the quality of future cancer
consultants is being jeopardised by the issues with widespread rota gaps."
Commenting on the findings Dr Ellen McCourt Chair of the Junior Doctors
Committee of the British Medical Association. "The dispute over the Junior
Doctor contract threatens to turn rota cracks into rota chasms.
Government plans to expand 7 day services without providing extra funding
and extra staff will stretch an already overstretched junior doctor workforce
even more thinly. We desperately need more Doctors, Nurses and healthcare
professionals, alongside essential additional funding, if the government wants
to deliver safe care and protect frontline staff from burnout."
The staffing of the NHS is in crisis, and we the juniors Doctors of the NHS are
worried the impacts that this will have on the wellbeing of our patients, and
the Doctors covering gaping holes with sticking plaster.
These gaps in the rota are having a direct effect on patient care. This is
particularly stark in the A&E waiting times data, with only 82% of patients
meeting the 4 hour waiting time, which is the worst performance since the
introduction of the target in
2004. In fact A&E has not met the 4 hour target in over 2 years. Chorley, and
Grantham, A&E departments have already identified issue with opening hours due
to the lack of Doctors, rota gaps and safe staffing. Alongside the recent
Horton Maternity unit, again due to the lack of Doctors, this will mean longer
waiting times, and a greater potential risk to the health of the population.
Will this affect you? Please let us know your thoughts and
views on this issue by emailing us to:-