NHS ordered to end the 'killing season' when patient death rate jumps as thousands of graduate doctors start work Each year, the first Wednesday in August – dubbed 'Black Wednesday' – sees more than 6,000 newly qualified doctors start their careers in medicineIt coincides with 6% increase in death rates
09:53 GMT, 28 May 2012
More consultants should be on duty to end the annual 'killing season' in the NHS when thousands of medical graduates start on hospital wards, a review of staff practices has warned.
Each year, the first Wednesday in August – dubbed 'Black Wednesday' – sees more than 6,000 newly qualified doctors start their careers in medicine.
But research has shown that their debut coincides with a 6 per cent increase in death rates and that it takes four months for this risk level to return to normal.
Call for action: More consultants should be on duty to end the annual 'killing season' in the NHS when thousands of medical graduates start on hospital wards
And now the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AMRC), which represents the 20 medical institutions responsible for maintaining standards in the NHS, has called for action to be taken.
It wants rotas to be 'more flexibly and intelligently designed' so that experienced doctors are on call during August and September to give trainees a 'high-quality clinical induction', with a particular focus on patient safety.
The AMRC also wants a reduction in routine surgery to allow for this training to take place.
The proposals have been endorsed by Dame Sally Davies, the chief medical officer for England, and her counterparts in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
And this August new doctors will for the first time spend four days shadowing the jobs which they are to move into.
Referring to the 6 per cent rise in death rates, Alastair Henderson, chief executive of the AMRC, said: 'The problem has been been known about for a long time, it is an increasing anxiety and it isn't acceptable.'
He told the Independent: 'There are practical complications with the changeover – if you are playing musical chairs everyone has to move or there won't be chairs to move to.
'The problem has been been known about for a long time, it is an increasing anxiety and it isn't acceptable'
'But that doesn't mean there can't be a way of supervising and managing it safely. We are calling for better consultant cover to ensure there is absolutely proper supervision during this period.'
Mr Henderson said that the AMRC is also investigating the merits of staggering the changeover which affects 50,000 doctors in training each February and August.
He believes that delaying this changeover for more experienced doctors would 'greatly increase stability'.
NHS medical director Sir Bruce Keogh has admitted that the changeover 'puts patients at risk' and inexperienced doctors under great stress.
Mark Porter, chair of the British Medical Association's consultants committee, has backed the proposals for more consultant cover in August.
But he said NHS trusts must accommodate those who wanted to take holidays at that time.
He said there was 'disturbing evidence' that patients got a worse service during the junior doctor changeover in August but denied deaths were higher.
He said: 'We no longer get patients deteriorating because they are now on observation charts with mandatory checks which trigger automatic calls to the critical care outreach team.'