03 February 2012
Allowing frontline doctors the time to teach, examine and support the development of national quality standards is a vital service for the health service and has come under extreme pressure in recent years. Against this backdrop, a letter signed by the medical leadership of all four UK health services is strongly welcomed by the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS).
In common with many medical organisations, the RCS relies upon its members and fellows giving up their time voluntarily to help ensure quality of training and spread high standards within the profession for the benefit of the NHS. These activities include leading practical examinations of junior doctors, sharing their knowledge on courses, establishing best practice standards or assessing the value of new techniques across different forms of surgery. This work directly benefits the NHS overall to improve and become more efficient and, because it is delivered by surgeons working on the frontline, is realistic, responsive and credible. The voluntary and charity-led approach delivers training and standards far below the full economic cost of this activity and overall saves the NHS millions of pounds each year.
However, releasing surgeons to do this means individual hospitals lose time when highly skilled consultants could be in the operating theatre and clinics. Because the overall savings are not easily measurable and the costs of absence are, local pressures on individual NHS Trusts mean that some hospitals are either blocking or placing unreasonable notice periods (up to two months in some cases) upon the involvement of their consultants in national level work.
Professor Norman Williams, President of the Royal College of Surgeons, said:
"This letter from the Department of Health is an important reminder of the ethos and benefits of the NHS and the role independent charities like the Royal College of Surgeons bring to helping the whole system maintain and improve our world class health system. Those Trusts that are currently making it increasingly difficult for surgeons to participate and share their expertise at a national level should take heed."
A copy of the letter, signed by the medical leadership of all four UK health services, can be found here.