A&E Doctors Face Crisis

Topics covered: Ridouts professional advice

A worryingly high number of A&E doctors are suffering from excessive pressure and burnout due to “intolerable” work pressures, such as being on-call regularly and the complexity of work they handle, potentially putting patients at risk, emergency unit specialists have warned.

The future of staffing of emergency departments is in question, as a result of too few junior doctors choosing to work there, as well as a growing number of A&E doctors moving abroad.

A survey by the College of Emergency Medicine showed that 1,077 of A&E doctors in UK hospitals found that 62% of them believe the job they do is currently unsustainable in its current form, while 94% work overtime in order to ensure high quality care.

Previous reports have highlighted the fact that A&E departments do not have enough consultants. According to the College, the average is just over 7% when it should be 10% for average sized hospitals and 16% for the largest hospitals.

Dr Paul Flynn, chair of the British Medical Association’s consultants committee, said: “Consultants working in emergency medicine face some of the most challenging, high-pressured and stressful work environments in the NHS, often with limited resources and gruelling workloads.”

“Unsurprisingly, the result has been fewer doctors choosing to go into emergency medicine and others leaving to work abroad, meaning existing consultants are working flat out to meet rising demand. We urgently need to look at how we can make working practices in emergency medicine safe and sustainable to address this recruitment and retention crisis.”

The Department of Health has given an extra £500m to A&E units in England to help them cope with growing pressures and to persuade more junior doctors to choose a career in emergency medicine.

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