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Doctors could be set to receive extra help from nurses and paramedics

Friday 20th May 2016
UK doctors may be set to receive extra support from other medical staff. Image: Spotmatik via iStock
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Doctors in UK hospitals should be given extra support from nurses, paramedics and other medical professionals to prevent the problems caused by staff shortages, a new report suggests.

A review of the NHS carried out by the Nuffield Trust recommended that nursing staff should be given extra training to provide them with some of the same skills as doctors so they can fill gaps on ward rotas in the event of an emergency or a severe staff shortage.

The Trust found that nurses have already been taking on some doctors' duties in hospitals, while pharmacists have been filling in for GPs in some parts of the country, with no significant issues arising on their watch.

For example, nurses in senior and advanced roles have been filling in for junior doctors during the recent strikes in accident and emergency (A&E) departments and paediatric units at the Sheffield Teaching Hospital Trust.

Meanwhile, the South-East Coast Ambulance organisation is in the process of providing more advanced training to paramedics so that a greater number of patients can be successfully treated at the scene instead of needing to travel to A&E where doctors and nurses are under high levels of pressure.

Nuffield believes this approach could be a solution for other NHS hospitals where there are staffing shortages, but unions have warned this can only be effective as a quick fix.

Dr Mark Porter, leader of the British Medical Association, said that he supported the idea of increasing the skillsets of staff, but the health service should be careful not to do this "at the expense of good quality training for doctors".

"It takes doctors many years to learn how to provide the best care for their patients, and there is no substitute for this kind of expertise and experience," he added.

"There should be more support for doctors to help them coordinate the best possible care for their patients."

Written by James Puckle

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