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Cath Everett

Sift Media

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

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News: Doctor shadowing scheme introduced to cut NHS ‘killing season’


The NHS has introduced a scheme in which junior doctors will shadow senior colleagues for at least four days in a bid to curtail the impact of the annual ‘killing season’.

The initiative was introduced following pilot projects across the country and will run in late July from this year onwards.
Senior doctors will be paid for the activity, which is intended to try and prevent the annual rise in deaths as graduates take up their first jobs and thousands more medics change to new roles as part of their continuing training.
This changeover period, which starts each year on the first Wednesday of August, has been labelled ‘black Wednesday’ or the ‘killing season’, after studies revealed that emergency patients were 6% more likely to die then than on the Wednesday of the previous week.
A shadowing trial in Bristol saw the number of mistakes made by junior doctors drop by 50% over their first four months, however.
Dr Tom Dolphin, chairman of the British Medical Assocation’s junior doctor committee, told the Daily Telegraph: “The BMA has been calling for the introduction of a shadowing scheme for new doctors for many years as it has shown that having an experienced pair of hands to show new doctors the ropes improves patient safety.”
But some commentators were not convinced, describing the scheme as nothing more than a “quick fix”. Gayna Hart, managing director of prescription and appointment booking software supplier, Quicksilva, warned that limiting shadowing activity to only four days simply wasn’t enough.
“It’s a bit like giving a man a crutch for his broken leg for four days – he needs on-going support, not a quick fix,” she said. “A long-term prescription is needed here – we need to be pre-empting problems earlier on and providing sustained support to junior staff in the UK by better nurturing their skills.”
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Cath Everett

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

Read more from Cath Everett

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