August trainee changeover endangers patients, research finds

Research carried out by the Society and the RCPE which discovered that 90 per cent of doctors believe patient safety is compromised during the August trainee changeover garnered a huge amount of media coverage last month.

The survey results also showed that the majority of respondents think the changeover negatively affects both patient care and doctors’ training.

‘The results of this survey add to the emerging evidence base which indicates that the current August changeover system increases a number of risks for patients, including an increased early death rate for patients admitted to hospital at this time,’ said Dr Louella Vaughan, Honorary Consultant Physician in Acute Medicine, and lead author of the study.

Respondents said the detrimental effects of the changeover lasted up to a month and that the system would be improved if the changeover was staggered according to grade and moved to a time of year that would not conflict with the holiday period.

Dr Neil Dewhurst, President of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, said that the situation has reached a point where it can no longer be ignored.

He said: ‘Other changes to established systems within healthcare have been shown to deliver real improvements for patients and similar consideration must be given to making the changeover in training safer. We would urge the Scottish and UK governments to review this matter as a matter of urgency.’

However, the Scottish Government at least does not agree there is a problem with the current system. In response to the survey a spokeswoman said there was ‘absolutely no evidence’ that the August changeover affected patient safety.

The results of the survey were reported in the Scotsman, the Daily Mail, the Daily Mirror, the Herald, the BBC (online and radio), STV, among others.

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