MEDICINE: Why you’ll be safe in hospital during a strike

Thousands of junior doctors will go on strike on Wednesday 10th February from 8am for 24 hours. I used to be one and may be one again. How, if juniors are so important, will a hospital run without them?

Broadly speaking, juniors hold a couple of roles. Firstly, it involves seeing patients every day with a senior doctor, ensuring they have been well since they were last seen and making plans for that patient. This usually takes most of the morning and occasionally into the afternoon.

After the ward round, these plans are put into place. Ordering scans, making referrals, organising discharges, taking bloods, prescribing drugs for discharge.

The more senior ‘juniors’ (for want of a better term) will do other things. A respiratory registrar may be involved in a bronchoscopy list or a clinic; a surgical registrar may have to do a day case list; or an elderly care registrar who needs to see referrals to his team.

If consultant take over this work, who’s going to do their job?

Much of what consultants do is elective work. It’s essential but non-urgent. It’s inconvenient for patients and unfortunately that’s the price of this strike.

Further, the cover that juniors will provide is the same as weekends, Christmas and Easter.

Let me reiterate this – it’s the same cover as every weekend, every bank holiday, Christmas, Easter, New Year. If this is dangerous, it’s dangerous all year round but it demonstrates the problem with the 7-day plan.

edinburghroyalinfirmary

What does 7 day NHS really mean?

Much has been written about the strike. The difficulty is that solving the issue of increased weekend mortality – which many dispute – involves changes to emergency cover. The 7 day plan is not a change to emergency cover. Rather it spreads the juniors covering the day-to-day tasks during the week over the weekend. It’s unclear how increasing elective work over the weekend would improve emergency care.

In other words – how do patients getting bunions removed on a Sunday improve your care if you have a heart attack?

The bottom line: government’s solution doesn’t solve government’s problem.

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