The NHS employers organisation says its members are confident that they will be able to provide a full and safe level of service throughout the coming weeks, despite the difficulties surrounding the appointment of junior doctors to new contracts from this Wednesday (1 August).
The shake up in medical training this year means not only are doctors coming out of Foundation Year II looking for posts, but so are all those who were still in Senior House Officer jobs. With the debacle over the computerised system, abandoned mid-way through the process, and the switch to individual deaneries handling appointments directly, there has been some delay. Round II is not due to finish until October.
Sian Thomas, deputy director of NHS Employers assured the public that there would not be a crisis: “Information gathered from employers indicates that trusts have been able to appoint very good doctors to specialty training posts this year and that the relatively small number of vacancies remaining can be covered through use of locums and other temporary staff cover.”
But the BMA sees things differently. It says that in England alone, around 30,000 doctors are due to be starting new posts — around 10,000 in foundation programme posts, and 20,000 in specialty training posts. The numbers starting new jobs on 1 August this year is significantly higher than in previous years, it says.
“The impact of Modernising Medical Careers on patient care is currently unknown,” said the BMA in a statement. It said this was largely because the SHAs have not published their plans, so there was no way of being sure about continuity of service on 1 August. “In some trusts, doctors are reporting that all routine operations are being cancelled,” said a spokesperson.
But it sought to allay fears that the changeover might result in more risk for patients: “The large number of doctors starting new jobs does not in itself mean that there will be an impact on patient safety,” said the BMA. “Research in the past has found no evidence that hospital deaths increase on 1 August. The vast majority of doctors are dedicated professionals who will never neglect their patients – their poor treatment at the hands of this system does not mean they will work to a lower standard.”
NHS Employers admitted that the next few weeks would be challenging. “But they are well prepared to ensure that both trainees and patients are looked after,” said a spokesperson. “The quality of applicants has been very high this year and trusts have recruited the best doctors to the available posts.”
About 1000 posts out of 15,600 in England are yet to be filled and further training posts will be released later in the year, the organisation said. For those junior doctors working in the NHS who have not secured a post, career counselling and guidance was available, including a new medical careers website was due to be launched in the next few weeks.
Trusts report being able to redeploy many of those who have not secured a post until the recruitment process comes to an end this October.
According to the BMA, the government has said that doctors currently working in the NHS will have their employment protected until the end of the recruitment process in October and that will be around 1000 additional short-term training posts for doctors who remain unappointed then, and an unspecified number of non-training posts.
But the BMA says many doctors have already left the UK preferring to take their chances elsewhere, including in Australia and New Zealand.
The latest details about Round 2 training opportunities are available at the Modernising Medical Careers website.