Anaesthetists have expressed ‘concern’ about their ‘ability to provide safe cover’ during the junior doctors’ strike next week.
Following confirmation by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt that the ongoing junior doctors’ dispute has reached ‘deadlock’, the Royal College of Anaesthetists has spoken out, saying that the College, its president and council share the ‘profound unease’ of trainees at the contract imposition.
The College went on to say that the NHS is ‘under-resourced, under-staffed and over-stretched’, highlighting that rota gaps are already affecting the ability to deliver ‘safe and effective’ perioperative care, even for emergency cases.
It also raised the point that it is ‘not viable to use cross-cover for anaesthetics because of the specialist expertize of anaesthetists’. Further concern was expressed at the risk of a reduction in recruitment in August.
The College acknowledged that the decision to participate in all-out strike action poses a difficult ethical dilemma for any doctor, saying: ‘We are confident that all trainee colleagues will weigh up carefully the implications for patient welfare locally, the standing of the profession, the long-term interest of the NHS and the justice of their cause when considering their personal position.’
The College concluded that in this ‘unprecedented situation for the NHS’, consultants and other non-training grade doctors will do everything they can to maintain patient safety but the need for urgent and emergency care is ‘unpredictable’ and the impact on care ‘remains to be seen’.
Junior doctors are due to stage their first all-out strikes in protest against the contract on 26 and 27 April. During this planned strike they will withdraw cover even from areas of emergency care such as A&E, maternity care, emergency surgery and intensive care.