Concerns about junior doctor shortages and high staff turnover at Colchester General Hospital

Colchester General Hospital. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Colchester General Hospital. Picture: GREGG BROWN - Credit: Gregg Brown

Junior doctors at Colchester General Hospital are making complaints about training, pay and working arrangements as vacancy rates spike.

The number of unfilled junior doctor positions at the trust reached a one-year high of 52 compared to 265 in post in September 2017.

At a public meeting of the hospital’s board members today, Diane Leacock, a nonexecutive director, called for the shortfall of junior doctors to be listed as one of the trust’s biggest current risks.

She said: “There have been lots of concerns raised, too many to mention here, but the key issues remain the gaps in rotas and their training, pay and shift arrangements.

“We have been assured that a task and finish group will be set up.

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“There’s a patient safety issue in terms of the rota gaps that we need to address immediately.

“There are pockets of excellent training but unfortunately they are being buried by the numerous issues that we need to solve.”

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There were 598 vacancies and 4,014 staff across all departments of the hospital in September.

Turnover and sickness rates at Colchester General Hospital were also flagged up as problems during the meeting.

In September, 73 members of staff left the trust and 4,297 whole time equivalent days were lost to sickness.

Mrs Leacock said the second highest cause of absence at the hospital was stress and anxiety.

Colchester General Hospital has enrolled on a staff retention support programme with NHS Improvement in a bid to stop workers quitting.

“There’s no use recruiting [staff] if we let them walk out of the door because we are not supporting them to do a good job,” Mrs Leacock said.

Dawn Scrafield, director of finance, said the majority of those leaving the trust were staff with “significant length of service”.

One of the trust’s focuses in the coming months will be “staff engagement”.

The hospital overspent on staff pay in September by £500,000, which has taken the trust over its year-to-date budget in this area.

Within a report discussed by board members, it says: “September’s overspend [on pay] has been driven by a dramatic increase in agency spend for both consultants and STR (speciality trainee registrar) staff.”

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