Consultants told to supervise new doctors to end NHS 'killing season'

 

It is known as "Black Wednesday" – the start of the "killing season" in the NHS, when a fresh crop of medical graduates starts on the wards.

The first Wednesday in August marks the arrival of 6,000 newly qualified doctors, quaking in their crisp white coats. As they take responsibility for patients for the first time, research shows that death rates rise by an average of six per cent. August is the NHS's cruellest month.

Now the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AMRC), representing the 20 medical institutions responsible for maintaining standards in the NHS, has said enough is enough. It has called for more consultants to be on duty and a reduction in routine surgery to allow senior doctors to supervise trainees more closely during the influx.

Rotas should be "more flexibly and intelligently designed" so more experienced doctors are on call for the first few weeks and trainees should be given "high-quality clinical induction" with an emphasis on patient safety.

The proposals have been endorsed by Dame Sally Davies, chief medical officer for England, and her three counterparts in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Alastair Henderson, chief executive of the AMRC, said the six per cent increase in death rates in August was a serious concern. "The problem has been been known about for a long time, it is an increasing anxiety and it isn't acceptable," he said. "There are practical complications with the changeover – if you are playing musical chairs everyone has to move or there won't be chairs to move to. But that doesn't mean there can't be a way of supervising and managing it safely. We are calling for better consultant cover to ensure there is absolutely proper supervision during this period."

The AMRC is exploring staggering the changeover, which affects 50,000 doctors in training who move to new posts twice a year in August and February. Delaying the changeover for the more experienced doctors by two to four weeks would "greatly increase stability", the AMRC says.

For the first time this August, new doctors will spend four days shadowing the jobs into which they are moving.

In letters to NHS trusts announcing the plan, NHS medical director Sir Bruce Keogh acknowledged that the changeover "puts patients at risk" and junior doctors under stress.

Mark Porter, chair of the British Medical Association's consultants committee, backed the proposals for more consultant cover in August but said NHS trusts must accommodate those who wanted to take holidays at that time and not operate a crude, first-come, first-served system.

He said there was "disturbing evidence" that patients got a worse service during the junior doctor changeover in August, but denied deaths were higher. "We no longer get patients deteriorating because they are now on observation charts with mandatory checks which trigger automatic calls to the critical care outreach team."

Marion Matheson, co-chair of the BMA's medical student committee, said the change was overdue. She told Hospital Doctor: "It's a bit disappointing they aren't already in place. If the recommendations came in it would be fantastic but it is questionable whether they are attainable."

Bill McMillan, head of medical pay and workforce at NHS Employers, said: "We aim to meet with the Academy soon to explore whether there are issues around terms and conditions, as well as how future developments will support patient care while being affordable and practical for employers."

In numbers: a critical month

6 per cent: Rise in deaths when newly qualified doctors start in August

6: Number of extra deaths within a week among patients admitted on first Wednesday in August (compared with those admitted on last Wednesday in July)

28 per cent: Increased risk of "undesirable events" immediately after the changeover

4 months: the length of time after changeover till the risk level returns to normal

50,000: Number of doctors who start work or swap jobs as part of their training in August

Arts & Entertainment
Madonna in her music video for 'Like A Virgin'
music... and other misheard song lyrics
News
Waitrose will be bringing in more manned tills
newsOverheard in Waitrose: documenting the chatter in 'Britain's poshest supermarket'
News
The energy drink MosKa was banned for containing a heavy dose of the popular erectile dysfunction Levitra
news
News
Much of the colleges’ land is off-limits to locals in Cambridge, with tight security
educationAnd has the Cambridge I knew turned its back on me?
VIDEO
Sport
Australia's Dylan Tombides competes for the ball with Adal Matar of Kuwait during the AFC U-22 Championship Group C match in January
sportDylan Tombides was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2011
Sport
Steven Gerrard had to be talked into adopting a deeper role by his manager, Brendan Rodgers
sportThe city’s fight for justice after Hillsborough is embodied in Steven Gerrard, who's poised to lead his club to a remarkable triumph
News
Ida Beate Loken has been living at the foot of a mountain since May
newsNorwegian gives up home comforts for a cave
Extras
indybest10 best gardening gloves
News
Russia's President Vladimir Putin gives his annual televised question-and-answer session
peopleBizarre TV claim
Arts & Entertainment
tvIt might all be getting a bit much, but this is still the some of the finest TV ever made, says Grace Dent
Arts & Entertainment
Comedian Lenny Henry is calling for more regulation to support ethnic actors on TV
tvActor and comedian leads campaign against 'lack of diversity' in British television
News
Posted at the end of March, this tweeted photo was a week off the end of their Broadway shows
people
News
peopleStar to remain in hospital for up to 27 days to get over allergic reaction
Arts & Entertainment
The Honesty Policy is a group of anonymous Muslims who believe that the community needs a space to express itself without shame or judgement
music
News
Who makes you happy?
happy listSend your nominations now for the Independent on Sunday Happy List
Life & Style
life
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Apprentice IT Technician

    £150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

    1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

    £153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

    1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

    £150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

    Sales Associate Apprentice

    £150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

    Day In a Page

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

    Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
    Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

    British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

    The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
    Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

    Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

    Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
    Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
    Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

    Cannes Film Festival

    Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
    The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

    The concept album makes surprise top ten return

    Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
    Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

    Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

    Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
    10 best baking books

    10 best baking books

    Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
    Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

    Jury still out on Pellegrini

    Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

    As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
    Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

    Mad Men returns for a final fling

    The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

    Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit