Lack of workforce planning raises safety concerns, says former health minister

Rimmer, A. et al. BMJ. 356:j46

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The UK government’s lack of workforce planning to increase junior doctor numbers raises concerns about the safety of increased weekend working, a former Liberal Democrat health minister has said.

Norman Lamb said that, without a guaranteed increase in junior doctor numbers, increased weekend working could compromise services during the week. He said that the health secretary for England, Jeremy Hunt, had not fulfilled a pledge made last year to increase the number of doctors in training to cover increased demand.

Lamb said, “My fear is that, unless you can guarantee that there will be more junior doctors employed, imposing a change which involves more hours being worked at weekends will inevitably reduce the numbers of hours worked during weekdays, when the pressure is at its greatest. This could result in real safety concerns.”

Speaking in the House of Commons on 5 September 2016, Hunt had said that “around 11 500 extra doctors will be trained during the course of this parliament.” In a letter to Hunt on 28 October, Lamb asked Hunt to confirm how many additional junior doctors would be working in the NHS each year until the end of the parliament.

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