Rota gaps causing ‘significant problems for patient safety’

Anaesthesia UK: 2nd February 2016

The latest census of consultant physicians and higher specialty trainees in the UK (2014/15) produced by the Royal College of Physicians, Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, highlights significant concerns around filling gaps in trainee rotas.

Published in full today, the annual census measures the number of UK consultants and higher specialty trainees in all medical specialties, as well as capturing the views of those in the profession.

As part of the census, consultant physicians were asked about the gaps they face in their trainees’ rotas and their concerns. The findings from the consultant census show that trainee rota gaps were reported by 21% of respondents as, ‘frequent, such that they cause significant problems for patient safety’. This problem is reported more among consultants who have an acute or general medical commitment (28%). A further 48% stated rota gaps happened ‘often, but usually with a workaround solution such that patient safety is not compromised’.

The consultant census also notes, along with previous years, the growing need for consultants who can meet the needs of frail older patients. Following trends noted in last year’s census, the greatest increase in consultant jobs advertised have been in acute medicine and geriatric medicine, suggesting a move away from specialist working to more generalist roles treating acutely ill patients.

The nature of patients coming to hospital is changing. Sixty-five per cent of people admitted to hospital are over 65 years old and many have multiple complex conditions – often such patients require increased generalist input, as highlighted by the RCP’s Future Hospital Commission report.

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