How the NHS can learn from the ArmyPosted on November 11, 2011
The media is understandably giving a lot of coverage today to the shameful fact that many hospitals operate such poor rotas that patients are more likely to die if admitted at night or at weekends, because not enough senior doctors are working antisocial hours.
This is not the only way in which scheduling failures cost lives in the NHS, though. Disturbingly, it has been proven that death rates also rise by about 6% in the first week in August, when newly qualified junior doctors arrive en masse onto our wards. Causality has yet to be fully established, of course, but there is a more than sneaking suspicion that the rise is related to doctors being “thrown in at the deep end”, in the words of Action Against Medical Accidents.
Can anything be done to reduce the problem?
Perhaps the NHS and the medical profession can learn some lessons from the Army. At Sandhurst, the officer training college, there are three batches of cadets studying at any one time, each staggered a term behind their predecessors. This means there are three smaller influxes of new junior officers into the Army during the year, rather than one massive batch arriving all at once. Part of the reason for this is that it makes it easier for the regular army to integrate new officers into their organisations.
Why not restructure medical schools to do the same? It would reduce the impact of the mass arrival in the first week of August, and allow for more supervision of newly qualified doctors in their first few weeks – which could save lives.