UK A & E departments face new staffing crisis as doctors leave to become GPs

Excluding trainees, around half of the doctors working in A&E in the UK are employed in staff grade and associate specialist (SAS) positions - which are distinct from consultant posts.

Addressing a conference in Edinburgh, Mr Mohib Khan, chair of the BMA's Staff and Associate Specialist Committee, will reveal that more than six in ten (62%) A & E departments have lost a staff grade doctor to general practice in the last year.

The figures, from a survey of 138 hospitals carried out in October 2004 by the Forum for Associate Specialists and Staff Grades in Emergency Medicine, show that seven in ten A&E departments have vacancies for staff grade doctors.Three quarters of respondents refer to pay inequalities between SAS doctors - who often receive little or no extra pay for working antisocial hours - and other medical staff, such as out-of-hours GPs.

Mr Khan will say that staffing problems in A & E will worsen unless SAS doctors get a new contract that addresses their low morale and reduces disparities with doctors in other types of job: "Unless things get better for this group of doctors, there are going to be serious problems staffing hospital emergency departments. The BMA has always had concerns that poor conditions for SAS doctors would be bad news for patients. This is evidence that their neglect poses a real threat to Accident and Emergency services."

The NHS Employers Organisation is preparing to negotiate with the BMA on a new contract for SAS doctors, but cannot start until it gets a mandate from the Departments of Health.

Mr Khan will also discuss the bullying faced by SAS doctors, which is cited by many as a source of stress. He will say that they are often assigned demeaning and inappropriate tasks, denied career progression, and refused access to training.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
Post a new comment