Over-Reliance On A&E Locums Risks Hospital Negligence28th Oct 2014
News that the NHS is recruiting 260 extra doctors to bolster beleaguered Accident & Emergency units is a double-edged sword.
At a headline level, any investment in this vital frontline service is to be welcomed – especially as the new doctors will start in November.
But you don’t have to scratch too far through the veneer of a political announcement before the worries start to emerge.
Fifty of the doctors will be from overseas, working on what the Department of Health describes as “work, learn and return” contracts.
We worry how much learning the doctors still need. We worry that English is not their first language. Accurate communication is critical in hospitals for obvious reasons.
Granted, the new A&E doctors must first pass English language checks but we are not filled with confidence.
We are concerned about the continuity of care that patients will receive. Patients get the best treatment when their GPs and consultants know each other well – not when they are passed from pillar to post.
Although – to be fair – being moved to other units is the nature of beast in A&E. Urgent cases get treated, stablised then passed further along the NHS chain of care.
Worryingly, some 101 of the 260 new A&E doctors will be juniors who started their training in the summer. Again, another red warning flag we watch for when taking legal action against hospitals.
Fifty more of the new A&E doctors will be juniors transferring from other units. Well, that’s something – at least they will be bringing some specialist expertise and experience with them.
Returning to a strategic level, it all tends to suggest papering over ever-widening cracks in the system.
We refer you back to a statistic from last January – that spending on A&E locums has soared by 60 per cent over three years.
What if that dependence on locums were to increase still further? Based on the clinical negligence cases we see from all over the UK, this is not a trend we would want to see continuing.
Have you suffered after having received poor care in Accident & Emergency or any other NHS (or private) unit?
Phone or email David Simpson (the UK Legal 500-recommended Partner who leads Coles Miller’s Clinical Negligence team) for expert legal help.