NHS hospitals have just one consultant on duty at the weekend for every 120 patients in some areas, figures have revealed.
The revelation comes after data revealed more than 4,400 people a year die needlessly as a result of poor out-of-hours care. North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust had just four consultants on duty to look after 485 beds and two Accident and Emergency Departments on a Sunday, figures revealed. A spokesman for the NHS Trust said they had additional consultant surgeons available on call. In some hospitals there are no consultants on duty at weekends at all and they instead use an on call system, the Sunday Times reported. The figures, put together by health information company Dr Foster Intelligence, offer a snapshot of the number of consultant’s on duty.
They looked at doctors on duty at all NHS Trusts across England on Sunday June 17 last year at 11am. North Cumbria Hospitals have been put in special measures by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt after they were heavily criticised for inadequate staffing levels and an over-reliance on locum cover in a report by Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS medical director for England. Analysts found that no consultants were on the rota to work at all at George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust in Nuneaton, Warwickshire.
Out of hours failings: Some NHS hospitals have as few as one consultant on duty per 100 patients (file photo) Although 10 out of 72 consultants were on call, just three of them were at the hospital at the time. At the Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust there were just six consultants on duty out of a total pool of 161. There were 12 consultants on site at Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust where there are 830 beds. The total number employed by the trust is 189. In contrast, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust had 82 consultants on duty. A review of the emergency and urgent healthcare system found at least 4,400 lives a year are lost in England because hospital death rates are worse at weekends, largely as a result of a shortage of senior doctors. A different report by the General Medical Council has named 14 NHS trusts that struggle to find sufficient staff to run A&E departments at weekends.
Niall Dickson, the chief executive of the GMC, told the Sunday Telegraph: ‘Emergency departments are under very significant pressure – with limited resources, they are coping with huge demand, staff shortages and heavy workload. ‘Training the next generation of senior doctors in this area is vital and we need to make sure they are given the supervision and support to develop.’ The GMC have ‘significant concerns’ about 16 hospitals. They included Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals Foundation Trust, North Cumnria University Hospitals Trust, Tameside Hospitals Foundation Trust, United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust and Buckinghamshire Healthcare Trust.
A spokesman for NHS England said that they were working to provide better weekend care across the country.
He said: ‘The NHS Services, Seven Days A Week Forum was set up by NHS England earlier this year and is currently at a crucial stage in its work as it gathers evidence into how the NHS could move towards offering patients better, safer and high quality health care every day of the week. ‘Five work streams established by the Forum are investigating the benefits of providing seven day services across the country, as well as collating information on the challenges that such a move would inevitably throw up. ‘Finance and workforce issues are being examined very closely, as these are key to helping commissioners and providers work together to improve outcomes for patients at weekends.’Other work streams are considering clinical standards, commissioning levers and future provider/service models.
‘Some Trusts are already developing their own local solutions to problems caused by the five-day service model, with seven day services increasingly being recognised as part of a wider solution to improve efficiency.’ A spokesman for North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust said they had additional consultant surgeons available on call. They added that they are working to improve out-of-hours care. Jeremy Rushmer, Interim Medical Director, said: ‘Surgery in North Cumbria is run as an on-call service with consultant surgeons available in all sub-specialties 24/7 as opposed to a “shift system”. ‘This allows complete cover over a longer period of time with the limited consultant workforce available.’