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BMA: Lack of hospital doctors put medics under strain and patients at risk

BMA: Lack of hospital doctors put medics under strain and patients at risk
By Léa Legraien Reporter
7 August 2018

Rota gaps in hospitals are placing doctors under increased emotional and physical strain, the BMA has said.

A BMA survey of more than 1,000 doctors in England revealed that the lack of doctors on hospital shifts and the pressures put on those on duty are impacting on the delivery of patient care.

The findings come as the trade union warned last month that the winter crisis in NHS services might stretch to the rest of the year, should no extra funding be allocated.

Key findings

According to the survey:

  • 80% of doctors report that individuals are encouraged to take on the workload of multiple members of staff
  • 68% had been asked to act up into more senior roles or cover for junior colleagues
  • 65% said medical trainees are pushed to do extra shifts
  • 32% had been discouraged to report exceptions
  • 22% said they had worked on-call shifts without appropriate senior clinical supervision and 18% worked this way on weekends

Workforce crisis

Last year, the BMA revealed that consultants did an average of 4.5 extra and unpaid hours per week.

BMA junior doctor committee deputy chair Dr Pete Campbell, said that ‘ignoring these concerns will have further negative consequences for patient care and exacerbate the ‘unmanageable workforce crisis.’

He continued: ‘As well as being placed at increased risk of burnout and stress, doctors are being routinely failed by missing out on important training and career development opportunities which has an obvious impact on morale and work satisfaction, undermining our ability to deliver high-quality care in the future.

‘With significant recruitment and retention issues throughout medical specialties across the country, the government must finally recognise how serious this problem is and address the huge recruitment and retention issues facing us.’


The BMA made a series of recommendations in relation to the findings, which include:

  • Trusts should introduce rota coordinators/planners to minimise the impact of rota gaps
  • Each hospital department should involve a junior doctor in rota design, planning and rostering
  • Trusts should ensure exception reporting is supported with clear standardised processes for reporting excess hours, missed breaks or training opportunities
  • Trusts should commit to tackling bullying and harassment

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