A medical law expert has called on NHS trusts to ensure junior doctors are properly supervised and have had thorough training to prepare for what to expect on a ward as thousands of graduates begin their first job as qualified medics today (1st August).
Thousands of students will also change to new jobs as their training continues.
Julie Lewis, a Partner who specialises in medical negligence at law firm Irwin Mitchell made the call after studies showed that patients admitted as an emergency on the first Wednesday in August are six per cent more likely to die than on the previous Wednesday.
Surveys have also shown that junior doctors are regularly left responsible for large numbers of hospital patients overnight due to a lack of senior staff and they are often asked to carry out operations and procedures on patients which they have no experience in and are beyond their capabilities.
Earlier this year it was announced that once qualified, junior doctors will shadow a senior colleague for four days in a bid to protect patients’ safety. Trials of the scheme in Bristol saw mistakes by junior doctors reduced by 50 per cent over their first four months.
Julie Lewis said: “Stepping out onto a busy ward for newly qualified doctors is a very daunting time and hospital trusts must ensure they are prepared for this and help new staff to get to grips with handling patients as quickly as possible.
“Patient safety has to be the number one priority across the NHS and this ‘killing season’, as it has become known, should not exist when some patient deaths could so easily be prevented.
“The trial of the shadowing scheme in Bristol shows that when junior doctors are supervised, far fewer mistakes are made which can ultimately save lives. This now needs to be rolled out across the rest of the UK.
“Better training in handling life or death situations before new medics are sent out onto the wards, as well as continued support and teaching in this area, will also ensure staff are prepared to help reduce fatal errors.”