Patient safety risks in "career breaks"

DOCTORS returning to work after an absence of any longer than three months should be subject to a formal assessment to ensure patient safety, according new guidance published by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges.

The guidance is based on the findings of a working group set up by the Academy and includes a review of existing evidence on return to practice. The document provides advice for managing the issues that doctors face on returning to practice, including practical checklists for evaluating doctors and recommendations for establishing an organisational policy and action plan on return to practice.

The group found that the best published evidence available on return to practice is in regard to a re-entry programme run for doctors in US who had been absent from practice for 18 months or more. Two-thirds (67 per cent) were found to have educational needs requiring "moderate to considerable re-education or training". Two key factors affecting a doctor’s performance when returning to practice were the length of time out of practice and the age of the doctor, with older physicians more likely to have higher ratings of poorer performance.

Professor Hugo Mascie-Taylor, Chairman of the return to practice working group said: "The guidance is designed to support doctors, employers and all those involved with the safe return to practice for doctors. Crucially, it provides practical help for doctors and employers and it sets patient safety at the heart of its recommendations."


Return to Practice Guidance

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