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Strain as junior doctors' hours cut


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ROSE GIBB: "The position within our most vulnerable services is extremely fragile and not sustainable in the medium to long term"
ROSE GIBB: "The position within our most vulnerable services is extremely fragile and not sustainable in the medium to long term"

A HOSPITAL trust has claimed new rules restricting the working hours of junior doctors has left some of its services in an "extremely fragile" position.

Maidstone and the Weald NHS Trust's chief executive Rose Gibb revealed staffing problems had meant it had already technically failed the directive, which officially came into force on August 1.

She said: "The trust has made a huge effort to employ 70 junior doctors over the last two years to comply with the European Working Time Directive. Although we are now technically compliant the position within our most vulnerable services is extremely fragile and not sustainable in the medium to long term financially and physically."

Under the terms of the EWTD, trainee doctors should no longer be working more than 58 hours per week. In the 1990s doctors were regularly working 80 hour shifts, raising concern over patient safety.

The trust was fully compliant with new rules, with £3m spent over the last two years recruiting staff, until four days before Sunday's deadline. An "unavoidable and sudden" combination of sickness, annual leave and a junior doctor turning down a job offer at the last minute left the Trust's paediatrics department three posts short.

Ms Gibb, said: "Thankfully six of our junior doctors temporarily opted out of EWTD to fill the void and work longer hours. Without their assistance we would have had problems maintaining some of our rotas, which would have jeopardised services.

"We were unable to find any locums to cover these positions, which shows the fragility of and difficulty we have in maintaining our most critical services. We know that by providing some of our services differently, however, we can offer patients the kind of high quality services they deserve, provided by doctors who are more rested and better able to do their jobs."

Healthcare trusts in the south of West Kent and East Sussex are currently proposing to change the way some of their vulnerable services are provided to meet national standards and help comply with EWTD in the long term.

The changes to improve local health services are being consulted on and were discussed at a public meeting at Maplesden Noakes School Maidstone on Thursday.

The trust is also looking at setting up special teams to help care for patients at night. The Hospital at Night teams will include specialist nurses who can do some of the work doctors would normally carry out.

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