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The safety of our patients depends on doctors working in a safe system. Due to the ongoing recruitment and retention crisis in the NHS, doctors no longer feel this is the case and fear that the health of their patients is at risk.
The findings of the 2018 NHS Staff Survey show that doctors and other healthcare professionals across England are working in a system under extreme pressure due to chronic underfunding, workforce shortages and rising patient demand. As a result, they are struggling daily to sustain high standards of patient care.
The extensive debate following the Dr Bawa-Garba case rightly exposed the high levels of anxiety individual doctors have about being blamed for system failures. This makes doctors fearful in their clinical practice.
Members have made clear their concerns at recent BMA annual representative meetings, passing resolutions highlighting chronic understaffing and calling for systems to be put in place to enable doctors to alert senior managers to unsafe staffing conditions.
Others have also recognised the problem - last year, the GMC published guidance for doctors working under pressure urging them to flag concerns about unsafe care to those responsible for running services.
Governments across the UK have committed to training more doctors, but this takes years. In the meantime, doctors need effective mechanisms to escalate their concerns about inadequate staffing levels, and to be freed up from unnecessary work so they can devote their time to patient care.
To make this happen, over the coming months we will:
Identify how doctors can respond to unsafe situations by:
Identify how to remove unnecessary work from doctors’ days by:
To inform this work we need to hear about your experiences of working in understaffed situations and about any individual or collective efforts to bring about positive change in your place(s) of work.
Please do share your experiences of unsafe working in this anonymous survey. If you’re willing, we’re also seeking written or video case studies, which we will help arrange and produce, of examples of positive change. Just share your email address at the bottom of the survey and we will get in touch.
I really believe that, through this work, we can make a positive difference to the lives of doctors working across the UK and their patients.
Tell us your experiences via our short survey
David Wrigley is a GP in Lancashire and deputy chair of BMA council
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