Trusts must encourage junior doctors to report long working hours, GMC says

Publication date:  10 Mar 2017

Junior doctors must be encouraged to raise concerns about their working hours and their training through exception reporting, the General Medical Council has said.

Exception reporting was introduced with the 2016 junior doctor contract in England. It allows junior doctors to report concerns about their working hours and their training.

In a statement issued on 9 March the GMC said that it strongly supported the new system. The regulator also said that it encouraged junior doctors to make use of exception reports to highlight any concerns and that it expected education providers, such as hospital trusts, to provide the same level of encouragement.

“We understand some doctors in training may be reluctant to report issues that affect them, especially minor ones, because they are mindful of the current pressures on healthcare services and concerned about the potential consequences which these reports will have for them, their educational supervisor, and indeed their organisation,” the GMC said. “However, organisations cannot plan their resources better in the future without a full and accurate picture.”

Doctors must feel able to report concerns wherever and whenever they arise, the GMC said, and they should never be put under pressure to feel otherwise. It said that education providers, such as hospital trusts, should also encourage junior doctors to make reports, as well as to ensure that “colleagues contribute to an environment supportive of exception reporting and to take prompt action to deal with any concerns that are raised.”

Through conversations with doctors in training the GMC said that it understood that there was variation in the effectiveness of local arrangements to support exception reporting. “We will be having further discussions—with organisations such as NHS Employers—to ensure that these arrangements are robust and consistently delivered in all parts of the country by the end of the transitional period this summer,” it said.

Commenting on the GMC’s statement, Jeeves Wijesuriya, chair of the BMA’s Junior Doctors Committee, said, “We are delighted that the GMC is supporting junior doctors to use the new exception reporting system without fear. This is a critical tool to ensure safer working environments and better access to training, for the benefit of junior doctors and their patients.”

He said that exception reporting allowed junior doctors to report breaches in hours, breaks missed, and educational opportunities lost. “It provides a voice for junior doctors, an advocate for their efforts, and an opportunity to build a bank of data to show managers and government officials where issues lie—and the scale of the problems,” he said. “Only last month a hospital trust in Surrey recruited extra staff to fill gaps highlighted by the system.”

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