Emergency care overstretched

NEARLY two out of three emergency medicine consultants (62 per cent) regard the job they are doing as unsustainable in its current form with 94 per cent saying they work beyond normal planned hours.

These are the findings of a report published today by The College of Emergency Medicine based on a survey of 1077 respondents who work in emergency departments (70 per cent response rate).

In a statement on the findings the College commented: “This has potentially serious repercussions for safe working by senior medical decision makers. This situation is also reducing the attractiveness of the specialty to new trainees and causing difficulties in retaining doctors and consultants who are leaving the UK in greater numbers.”

Respondents also highlighted pressures on nursing and other colleagues with whom they work in teams.

The College makes a number of recommendations including immediate action by trust boards and commissioners to ensure adherence to good job planning for consultants and other medical senior decision makers in emergency medicine. It also calls for an urgent review by the BMA and NHS Employers to consider ways in which safe and sustainable working practices for consultants and other medical senior decision makers in emergency medicine can be appropriately recognised, especially for out of hours and night time work to ensure adequate rest and recuperation.

The College also believes it is vital that the Keogh review into emergency and urgent care which is due to report this autumn provides a clear focus to address and improve urgent and emergency care system design.

Responding to the report, Dr Paul Flynn, Chair of the BMA’s Consultants Committee said: "Consultants working in emergency medicine face some of the most challenging, high pressured and stressful work environments in the NHS, often with limited resources and gruelling workloads.

"Unsurprisingly, the result has been fewer doctors choosing to go into emergency medicine and others leaving to work abroad, meaning existing consultants are working flat out to meet rising demand.

"We urgently need to look at how we can make working practices in emergency medicine safe and sustainable to address this recruitment and retention crisis.

"That's why discussions on work-life balance, out-of-hours work, job planning and protecting time for training and development will be central to upcoming contract negotiations between the BMA and NHS Employers. These issues are important to all doctors, and especially important to those working in emergency medicine given their work load and work patterns."

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Stretched to the limit

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