A report released by the General Medical Council (GMC) states that many doctors in training are tired and stressed because of work patterns that contravene the European Work Directive limiting the working week to 48 hours.
Researchers found that some of the 55,000 junior doctors were working 100 hours per week, and were allowed to provide treatment without the supervision of senior colleagues.
Some of the junior doctors work 12 days in a row, with shifts of 13 hours.
In an interview with the Daily Mail newspaper, Niall Dickson, chief executive of the GMC said “We must never go back to the ridiculous hours worked in the past when patients were routinely put at risk by exhausted young doctors, but the current system is too complex and the way it is implemented far from satisfactory.”
Dr Ben Molyneux, chair of the British Medical Association’s junior doctor committee, added: “Badly designed, understaffed rotas can leave junior doctors doing long stretches of night shifts with fewer training opportunities. There is clear evidence that tired people are more likely to make mistakes and so it is essential that this problem is addressed.”
Junior doctors are often used as a replacement for their higher paid (more expensive) colleagues as a way to cut costs in NHS trusts, especially in out-of-hours services such as A&E.
These are people who are expected to make life and death decisions, and one mistake can bring misery to the patient, and also end the junior doctor’s career before it gets started.
Expecting any person to work 13 hours shifts for 12 days in a row is ridiculous, and common sense dictates that the person will not be making the best decisions because of exhaustion.
We must remember that this is not the junior doctor’s fault. It is the cost cutting measures and target that the government set that are to blame – no one and nothing else.