Shortage of doctors ‘means nurses will have to do their work’, as experts warn there’s not enough qualified medics to fill the gaps in NHS workforce crisis
- Royal College of Physicians said there are ‘nowhere near enough’ doctors
- Number of medical school places needs to double to meet patients’ needs
- Benchmarks will be piloted within NHS hospitals so trusts can map staffing levels
A lack of doctors means hospital patients should expect to be treated by nurses and less-qualified medics.
The Royal College of Physicians said an NHS workforce crisis means there are ‘nowhere near enough’ doctors to fill the gaps.
It warned that the days of Sir Lancelot Spratt – the fictional surgeon who always had an entourage of junior doctors in the book, film and TV series Doctor in the House – were over.
Instead, the public must understand that ‘stereotypes’ of traditional doctor and nurse roles no longer exist and should expect different healthcare professionals to treat them.
Dr Andrew Goddard, registrar and president-elect of the RCP, said more should be done to reassure patients
Launching a report on safe staffing guidelines for hospitals, the RCP said the number of medical school places needs to double to meet the needs of patients.
Rising demand on services –coupled with a surge in doctors retiring – means hospitals are increasingly struggling to ensure they have sufficient numbers, they found.
This has increasingly led to a reliance on other healthcare professionals, such as advanced nurse practitioners and physician associates, to examine, diagnose and treat patients.
Dr Andrew Goddard, registrar and president-elect of the RCP, said more should be done to reassure patients.
He said: ‘I think one of the problems that the public have at the moment is that it’s quite hard to understand this rapidly-evolving change in the way that care is delivered, which is very different to this Sir Lancelot Spratt turning up with his retinue of junior doctors, because that just doesn’t happen any more.
‘There are some parts of the country where there are loads of junior doctors and there are other parts of the country where they are really struggling to recruit, so they need to think about how they might work with other types of medical profession.’
However, he insisted ‘the role of the doctor is not dead’.
The RCP said last month that the health service will need at least 7,120 extra senior hospital doctors by 2030 to cope with a predicted 47 per cent rise in demand.
Health chiefs need to increase the number of new students entering medical school to 15,000 a year, doubling its intake.
It said both emergency and elective hospital care has increased by 3.6 per cent per year over 12 years while doctor numbers have failed to keep pace.
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In the first guidelines of its kind, the professional body has calculated the numbers of healthcare professionals at various levels required to ensure patient safety.
These benchmarks will be piloted within NHS hospitals so that trusts can map staffing levels against the recommendations.
Professor Dame Jane Dacre, RCP president, said some of the additional need could be met by recruiting more physician associates, who carry out many of the same functions as junior doctors.
But Joyce Robins, of Patient Concern, said: ‘Patients expect to be seen and treated by fully qualified-qualified doctors, who are trained to deliver the highest standards of care.’
Dr Kathy Mclean, executive medical director at watchdog NHS Improvement, said: ‘We will now work with the RCP on the issues raised by this report.’
- UP to 400 newly-qualified foreign GPs who want to work in English surgeries face deportation, NHS England has admitted. They are due to finish training in three weeks but do not have the correct visas to remain. Health bosses had hoped to get permission from the Home Office to sponsor the paperwork, but this is unlikely to happen before the would-be GPs’ student visas expire.
APPS ‘TRACK’ DISCHARGED PATIENTS’
Discharged hospital patients could be given tracking apps to alert doctors if they fall ill again, the new Health Secretary has said.
Matt Hancock – who took over from Jeremy Hunt on Monday – also suggested the devices could free-up beds more quickly by informing nurses when patients had left hospital
Matt Hancock – who took over from Jeremy Hunt on Monday – also suggested the devices could free-up beds more quickly by informing nurses when patients had left hospital.
He said: ‘Technology has a proven ability to radically change the world for the better – be it in finance, in education and in transport.
‘But nowhere does technology have greater potential to improve lives than in healthcare.
‘Artificial intelligence can help spot early stages of cancer, giving patients a better chance of survival.’
He told the Health Service Journal: ‘Apps can monitor patients as they leave care and alert doctors or GPs if there are any problems that arise after leaving care.
‘I’ve seen how tracking devices can reduce the time needed to ensure the right patients are in the right place at the right time.’
On Tuesday, Mr Hancock visited University College London Hospital, where he was shown its ‘patient-flow software’ wristbands, which are dropped into a box to alert staff that beds are free when patients are discharged.
University College Hospital, London
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