More than half of higher specialty trainees (HSTs) say they feel pressured to cover rota gaps and more than a quarter said they have been encouraged to take on the work of more than one doctor almost always or most of the time when covering a gap.
The finding is one of several revealed in the latest Royal College of Physicians (RCP) census of consultant physicians and HSTs in the UK.
The census was produced by the Medical Workforce Unit (MWU) at the RCP on behalf of RCP London, RCP Edinburgh (RCPE) and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow (RCPSG).
Almost 8,700 doctors contributed to this year’s census. The data showed that in 2018, almost half (43%) of advertised consultant posts went unfilled due to a lack of suitable applicants.
The survey responses demonstrated the pressures on the system, with 40 per cent of consultants and 63 per cent of HSTs saying rota gaps occurred on a daily or weekly basis. Only 7 and 12 per cent, respectively, said such gaps did not lead to significant patient safety issues.
Forty-five per cent of consultants and 61 per cent of HSTs reported that a trainee was absent due to sick leave during their last on-call shift, particularly foundation year 2 (FY2) and core medical trainee (CMT) doctors.
Over half (52%) of trainees with partners and or children reported that work had affected their relationship with them during the past year. Almost a third of HSTs reported that their morale was worse compared with a year ago.
In light of the findings, the RCP is now calling on the government to double the number of undergraduate medical posts and to do more to retain current staff, with consideration of the current pensions tax problem.