Medical Students 'Put Patients At Risk'

New Proposals To Let Medical Students Treat Patients Could Lead To Safety Issues, Experts Warn

23.06.2014

Experts have warned that new plans to allow medical students to treat patients could put lives at risk - but supporters believe the plan could cut waiting times at hospitals across the country.

Currently, graduates have to complete a foundation year under a supervisor - normally an experienced doctor - before they can register with the General Medical Council and practice on their own.

But new plans from Health Education England would allow graduates to treat patients without any further supervision as soon as they leave university, reports the Telegraph.

However, these proposals have been met with complaints from the British Medical Association (BMA) conference, which is taking place in Harrogate.

Experts from the BMA think that letting graduates with such little experience treat patients could pose a patient safety risk - leading to higher mortality rates and poorer outcomes.

Health Education England wants to solve a staffing crisis across the NHS by getting doctors involved in care as early as possible, but Harrison Carter, co-chairman of the BMA's students committee, believes there are better ways to reach this goal.

"Registering straight from medical school would mean they are doctors in the legal sense and could work as locums with no further education or supervision.

"They would not be on a training path towards becoming a consultant or a GP but they could still work as a doctor here or overseas in a relatively dead-end position. This compromises patient safety as there is no ongoing education or supervision."

Katherine Murphy, of the Patients Association, said that fast-tracking a doctor's training would put hospital patients at risk, but the Health Education England said that assessing different options to the status quo is important.

The organisation pledged to discuss the idea with the Department of Health and assess whether it is feasible to implement on a trial basis across the English and Welsh NHS systems.

Expert Opinion
We agree that action is needed to improve staffing levels across the NHS but under no circumstances should it be at the expense of patient safety.

“Through our daily work we see the devastating consequences that can occur when junior medical staff treat patients without having undergone the appropriate training and supervision.

“We hope that a solution will be agreed that has patient safety as its core value rather than one of reducing budgets to ensure standards of care are in no way jeopardised.”
Mandy Luckman, Partner