Junior doctor Medical student

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Shadowing eases August changeover

Newly qualified junior doctors should start their first jobs with greater confidence this week after undertaking a period of paid shadowing.

This year’s F1s (foundation doctor 1s) were the first to undergo a mandatory four days of shadowing to learn from their predecessors.

The extra training period, which is meant to make trainees feel more comfortable and improve patient safety, was introduced following BMA lobbying.

BMA junior doctors committee chair Tom Dolphin said: ‘Starting any job is stressful, especially when that job gives you responsibility for patients’ care.

‘This period of shadowing aims to make the learning curve that vital bit shallower for the first few days of being a doctor and we hope that this year’s new F1 doctors found it useful and that they hit the ground running on Wednesday morning, more confident and ready to go.’

Compelling evidence

The Department of Health introduced shadowing this July on the advice of MEE (Medical Education England), the multi-professional board that includes the BMA and advises the government on medical training issues.

MEE considered a range of research, including a study supported by Dr Foster Intelligence showing mortality rates increased by 6 per cent among emergency patients admitted to hospital on the first Wednesday in August compared with the previous Wednesday. The first Wednesday in August is usually when junior doctors on training rotations change jobs and new F1s begin work.

A pilot of shadowing and targeted teaching at University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust in July 2010 led to a 52 per cent reduction in mistakes made by F1s during their first four months, according to the DH.

The trust then introduced a course called From Scared to Prepared, which covers aspects of patient care that newly qualified doctors wished they had done better.

Consultant anaesthetist Rebecca Aspinall, the trust’s training programme director, said: ‘Attendance on this course has reduced our frequency of errors and made patients safer year on year. I am delighted that the DH has recommended this innovation across the UK.’

NHS medical director Professor Sir Bruce Keogh has written to employers, postgraduate medical deans and F1s highlighting how shadowing is mandatory and must be paid.