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Outdated handovers putting East Midlands patient care at risk, GMC report finds

Press Release

19 Jul 2017

Patient care at East Midlands hospitals is potentially at risk due to inadequate handovers between teams of doctors on different shifts, a General Medical Council (GMC) review published today (Wednesday 19 July) has found.

Ensuring the safety of patients is absolutely essential, and handovers between teams of doctors need to reflect that, as well as the continuity of care that patients deserve.

Dr Colin Melville, Director of Education and Standards at the GMC

During its review of medical education and training in the region, the GMC spoke to doctors in training who told how handovers lacked continuity of care and could be unsafe for patients. The issue was raised by doctors at Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Trust and United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust.

But at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust a 3am ‘pulse check’ handover is in place in some departments, which was praised for giving teams a chance to review work and to discuss any issues.

In its region-wide review, GMC inspectors said they were ‘impressed’ with the educational governance systems they encountered, but issues around workload and resources meant doctors in training often struggled to fit in their learning.

Issues raised included:

  • At Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust doctors said they regularly worked longer than they should, and had to attend clinics or teaching session - and even take medical exams - as personal holiday time rather than study leave.
  • At Sherwood Forest NHS Foundation Trust, doctors reported needing to use their own time to stay on top of their workload, and difficulties fitting in opportunities for learning.
  • At University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust doctors said that, at its worst, they were only able to attend 40% of local teaching sessions and often had to work on their days off to try to meet their training requirements.
  • Doctors at United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust told the GMC that while their duty rotas were designed to protect their education and training, there were sometimes gaps that had to be filled, and timetable clashes, which impacted on their training.
  • Some female medical students at University Hospitals of Leicester reported they had been subject to inappropriate comments based on their gender. They had been undermined in career advice they were given, including being told to pursue careers as GPs rather than in surgery if they planned to have children.

Overall GMC inspectors reported the state of medical education and training in the region was generally positive:

  • Health Education England East Midlands’ structure drives improvements in quality and gives a good oversight of issues.
  • Both Leicester and Nottingham medical schools had good systems in place to deliver high quality education.
  • Education and training were valued across the region.
  • Systems for reporting and dealing with patient safety concerns were good.

Dr Colin Melville, Director of Education and Standards at the GMC, said: ‘Ensuring the safety of patients is absolutely essential, and handovers between teams of doctors need to reflect that, as well as the continuity of care that patients deserve.

‘We know that the pressure front line care is under, and that it can have a damaging impact on the education of doctors in training. The East Midlands is similar in that respect to other parts of the UK, and it is vitally important that training time is protected as far as possible, without compromising patient care.

‘There are areas of concern that we have asked training providers to address, but overall we were pleased at the high standards and commitment across the region.’

Following its visits to the region, the GMC has set requirements and recommendations for each organisation, detailed in its visit reports. They will report back to the GMC on progress.

Notes to editors

The General Medical Council (GMC) is an independent organisation that helps to protect patients and improve medical education and practice across the UK.

  • We decide which doctors are qualified to work here and we oversee UK medical education and training.
  • We set the standards that doctors need to follow, and make sure that they continue to meet these standards throughout their careers.
  • We take action when we believe a doctor may be putting the safety of patients, or the public's confidence in doctors, at risk.

We are not here to protect doctors - their interests are protected by others. Our job is to protect the public.

We are independent of government and the medical profession and accountable to Parliament. Our powers are given to us by Parliament through the Medical Act 1983.

We are a registered charity (number 1089278 with the Charity Commission for England and Wales, and number SC037750 with the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator), we have to show that our aims are for public benefit.

The GMC Media Relations Office can be contacted on 020 7189 5454, email press@gmc-uk.org.

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