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Ipswich: Urgent need for A&E doctors to combat staff shortages

Ipswich Hospital, Heath Road. Ipswich Hospital, Heath Road.

Monday, July 22, 2013
1:23 PM

Hospital bosses have admitted problems with recruiting accident and emergency staff, but insist there is no risk to patients.

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Details of the situation at Ipswich Hospital were revealed after it emerged that the hospital’s A&E department is one of 14 in the country the General Medical Council (GMC) has highlighted concerns over.

The GMC says nationally emergency departments suffer particularly high workloads and inconsistent supervision, which it says are putting off doctors from training in emergency medicine.

GMC officials say Ipswich Hospital is on their list of hospitals being monitored long-term via the action plans for training put together by post graduate deans.

The council has carried out spotchecks at seven A&E departments at hospitals where there are greater worries but it is understood there are currently no plans for such an inspection at Ipswich.

Ipswich Hospital spokeswoman Jan Ingle said “We make sure at all times when we run our emergency department that staffing levels are safe.

“We are currently doing very well in terms of our personnel and can assure everyone that, while nationwide there is a shortage of consultants and senior doctors middle grade, we would not run a shift without making sure adequate cover was in place.

“We acknowledge that we do have issues but they are really not that different to many other hospitals.

“We are currently recruiting four consultants and we are looking at how we can staff the department with suitably qualified doctors with experience in emergency care.”

At a hearing this month into the conduct of a doctor working in the hospital’s A&E department, the Medical Practitioners’ Tribunal Service was told it was a “lesser risk” having the doctor at work in the unit than leaving the A&E department short-staffed.

The GMC says health trusts can improve A&E by making the recruitment of doctors a priority and reducing the burdens and pressures to make it a more attractive career choice.

Last year there were 177 doctors in training in England and Wales who applied to train in emergency medicine. Of those 115 were offered a place but only 61 accepted.

Health minister Dan Poulter, who is also Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP, said work was taking place to provide incentives to encourage junior doctors to specialise in A&E, and also with a number of hospitals facing long-standing problems in recruiting emergency staff.

He said: “Ipswich is one of these hospitals but they have recognised the problem and are facing up to the challenge and addessing it. I have confidence in the quality of care provided and the way the hospital manages its staffing.”

Dr Alan Murray, county council cabinet member for health and adult care, said the shortage of A&E doctors and consultants was no surprise because not enough were being trained. It was a long-standing problem and ways needed to be found to make it as attractive to work in emergency as other specialties.

GMC chief executive Niall Dickson said: “Emergency departments are under very significant pressure – with limited resources, they are coping with huge demand, staff shortages and heavy workload.

“Training the next generation of senior doctors in this area of medicine is absolutely vital and we need to make sure they are given the supervision and support they need to develop.

‘It is crucial that they are valued and continue to pursue a career in this specialty. If we do not get this right we will not attract the doctors we need to work in emergency medicine.”

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