NHS staff filling in for junior doctors

By Joe Mellor, Deputy Editor

A review by the Nuffield Trust has found that in certain parts of England other types staff are filling in for hospital doctors. Now NHS chiefs have said that paramedics, pharmacists and nurses should be trained to plug the gaps in junior doctor rotas.

The review by the Nuffield Trust discovered numerous examples of nurses stepping in for hospital doctors and pharmacists replacing GPs.

Senior union members told The Independent the changes must not be made at the expense of good quality training for doctors themselves. There may be concerns that it is seen as a short-term answer for a problem that will not go away any time soon.

Increasing gaps in rotas for junior doctors and increased patient numbers have meant that hospitals are really struggling to cope. The pressures on the NHS seem to be growing every day.

The junior doctors’ industrial action appears to be the tip of the iceberg, with ever increasing strain to ensure patients receive decent treatment. The fear are that more industrial disputes are to come, with more and more operations cancelled, and no agreement between the waring factions.

The Nuffield Trust was asked by NHS Employers to look at how the 1.3 million-strong workforce could be reshaped. The think tank discovered some areas were already using other NHS staff to fill in for doctors.

The report said that Sheffield Teaching Hospital Trust uses nurses to fill in for junior doctors in accident and emergency units, surgery and paediatrics, while 10 GP practices in York and Hull have employed three pharmacists to see patients who need their medicine reviewed.

Candace Imison, report author and Nuffield Trust Director of Policy, said in a statement: “Our research shows that reshaping the NHS workforce can offer huge opportunities – for patients, through improved health outcomes, and for staff, through more rewarding roles and better career pathways.

“But we stress in our report that this is not simply a ‘nice to do’ – it is urgent, and essential if the Health Service is to find a sustainable balance between available funding, patient needs and staff needs, and deliver services fit for the 21st century”.

Dr Mark Porter, BMA chair of council, said: “While we support the upskilling of the existing workforce and the introduction of new roles to assist with patient need, this should not be done at the expense of good quality training for doctors or, indeed, doctors themselves.”

UNISON head of health Christina McAnea said: “Developing the NHS support workforce must not be seen as a quick and cheap fix for the chronic shortages of nurses and other health workers across the country.”

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