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Out-of-hours care failing

2nd December 2010

The Royal College of Physicians has raised concerns over poor out-of-hours care in hospitals.

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It fears that junior doctors are having to care for too many patients because there are not enough consultants on duty at weekends and in the evenings.

Following a survey of 126 hospitals in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the RCP found that none had more than 12 hours of weekend cover from senior specialists in emergency medicine, only 3% provided 9-12 hours of cover, and almost 75% of hospitals in the survey had no specialist cover at all.

Now, the RCP wants a consultant on duty 12 hours a day, every day.

RCP president Sir Richard Thompson said that while care of seriously-ill patients had improved, out-of-hours care still falling short.

He said: “Patients are still not getting the care they deserve at night and at weekends. Too many junior doctors are covering too many very ill patients, and this has to change. Our evidence shows that a predominantly consultant-delivered medical service is the best way to improve patient care.”

The RCP work follows research from earlier this year that found patients who were emergency admissions at weekends were more likely to die than if they were brought in during the week.

The National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death (NCEPOD), which provided evidence to the RCP, said it was also important for junior doctors to be better trained to care for the very ill and to spot those who are falling ill on other wards.

 

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