Leading article: The human cost of the NHS's cruellest month

Click to follow
The Independent Online

If you go into hospital in the first week of August, beware. This is when new graduate doctors start on the wards for the first time, and fatality rates rise by 6 per cent.

Clearly, doctors have to start some time. But is it really sensible for them all to start at the same time, on the first Wednesday in August, and in a month when, it may be assumed, many of the more experienced consultants are on holiday? Moves are now afoot to stagger the arrival of new doctors and provide for a crossover period and more supervision. This year's new doctors will spend four days shadowing their predecessors – the first time there has been even this short overlap. But representatives of medical students say that change is too slow in coming, and it is hard to disagree. The medical establishment's talk of practical complications suggest that it is not trying hard enough. Current practice is costing lives.