Doctors' leaders will this week present the Government with "compelling evidence" of a widespread shortage in their numbers.
Junior doctors are being forced to work extra hours, often unpaid, to fill gaps in rotas left by colleagues who have completed their training. Many are on maternity or long-term sick leave. The British Medical Association (BMA) says a controversial new recruitment system is largely to blame. The system creates a fixed start and end date for jobs, greatly reducing staff flexibility, says the BMA.
It warns that some hospitals have only 50 per cent of the junior doctors they need. "We are going to end up going back to junior doctors working 80 to 100-hour weeks, which will impact not only on their training and health, but also patient care," said Ram Moorthy, chairman of the BMA Junior Doctors' Committee.
The Department of Health said: "We take this issue seriously and we are talking to the NHS and to the medical profession about potential solutions."