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Patients' lives at risk because of overworked doctors

Patient safety

(NaturalNews) In a new report, the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has branded England's National Health Service (NHS) as underfunded, understaffed and overstretched.

The report found huge rota gap issues in hospitals across the United Kingdom. As a result, exhausted and stressed-out doctors are putting patients at risk. As reported by the Independent, many doctors are discouraged from taking naps on their night shifts, even though studies have shown that they would perform far more safely after some sleep. Some doctors say that they are often too busy to even get a glass of water to stay hydrated.

Patients at risk

The study warns that the NHS workforce is struggling to cope under the current arrangements. Doctors "'increasingly feel like collateral damage' in the battle between rising demand and squeezed budgets." The situation is untenable; there are no longer sufficient doctors to staff hospitals safely, putting patients at risk.

According to the RCP's findings, a quarter of doctors in training are working shifts that leave them feeling short of sleep on a daily or weekly basis. The study also found that 74 percent of physicians in training go through at least one shift per month without proper hydration, while about 37 percent do not drink enough water during seven shifts per month.

Furthermore, the study reported that 28 percent of doctors work four shifts per month without consuming a meal, while 56 percent work at least one shift without having a decent meal. The report added that, on average, these doctors work an extra five weeks per year on top of their already busy work schedule.

The study is part of a bigger report on how the NHS is suffering due to an overstretched workforce, a recruitment crisis and insufficient funding.

The healthcare system needs an overhaul

The authors of the report call for an immediate overhaul of NHS efficiency targets, urging the government to set realistic goals, invest in the "long-term sustainability" of the health service, and protect funding for transformation.

Even with planned efficiency savings – which, according to some sources, are not achievable – it is expected that the NHS will face a black hole in its finances of around £2.5 billion (about $3.24 billion). Therefore, the report concluded that the NHS is in dire need of a new long-term plan to address the UK's healthcare needs.

RCP president, Professor Jane Dacre, said that as a doctor she fully realizes that this report must be a terrible diagnosis for the NHS. They will have to work together towards finding the best solution over the coming weeks, months and years to reform the system.

Furthermore, the authors concluded that there is an immense shortage in the medical workforce, and that the number of doctors in training needs to rise faster. Despite the rising numbers of patients, there are fewer medical students compared to 2010. Therefore, they recommend an increase in the overall number of training places.

"We need joined up action across government if we are to address the workforce challenges facing the NHS. The DH, Treasury, Home Office Department for Exiting the European Union and the Department for Work and Pensions need to work together with the healthcare professions and NHS organisations to find immediate and long-term solutions," the authors of the report stated.

As noted by the Independent, Dr. Johnny Marshall, director of policy at the NHS Confederation, welcomed the report, but said that care and treatment must be moved closer to people's homes. However, he added to GP Online that he looks forward to collaborating with the RCP to further develop the workforce.

Sources for this article include:




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