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One hundred days to save doctors’ training


7 May, 2009  

The BMA warns that with the legal limit on junior doctors’ hours set to be reduced in 100 days’ time, urgent action needs to be taken to ensure the quality of their training is maintained.

On 1 August this year, the European Working Time Directive will be fully applied to junior doctors for the first time, reducing their maximum weekly hours from 56 to 48. There is widespread concern from doctors, particularly those training to be surgeons, that the cut in hours will make it difficult for them to gain the experience they need.

Dr Andy Thornley, Chairman of the BMA’s Junior Doctors Committee, says:

“Patients have a right to expect the consultants responsible for their safety to be confident and trained to the highest standards. The NHS has had 11 years to prepare for this. Now there are only 100 days to go, and there are real questions about how we can maintain current standards of training. It is vital for all NHS patients that we continue to train the high quality consultants and GPs of the future.

“This change is going to happen, and trusts need to be implementing practical solutions now.”

In a recently published paper, the BMA suggests possible practical steps to maintain the quality of training for trainee surgeons, and other junior doctors who learn through direct experience of performing procedures on patients.

It points out that the number of junior doctors is set to drop over the coming years, and that the NHS needs to move away from the current model of care, in which trainees are responsible for delivering such a large proportion of service, sometimes at the expense of their training. The long-term solution, it says, is for a focused expansion in numbers of consultants.

The paper also calls for a number of short-term practical solutions to be considered, including:

    • The re-introduction of training lists – which ensure that trainees assist with procedures which are suitable for their stage of training– for all junior doctors working in operative specialties
    • Increasing the flexibility of training programmes so that doctors can take more time to progress, and gain appropriate experience where necessary
    • Additional funding for trusts to free up consultant trainers to supervise junior doctors
    • Investment in simulators and skills labs – where doctors can practise techniques using technology which simulates an operation

BMA