Two junior doctors left to care for 436 patients on a night shift

A report has revealed that two junior doctors were left to care for 436 patients during at night shift at an NHS hospital.

The pressures on medical staffing at the Derriford Hospital came to light in an anonymous concern raised by a doctor who said the situation was a “very unsafe shift”.

Derriford Hospital was last inspected by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) last year with an overall rating of 'Requires Improvement'


Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust said having two rather than three doctors on 2 May 2017 was an "exception" and the report was submitted as part of an “exception reporting” procedure where junior doctors are asked to inform management of staffing incidents.

The report from the doctor read;

“Told on the phone that the deputy medical director had talked to my consultant and said I must do this, as there would otherwise only be a single SHO (senior house officer) looking after all of the medical patients in the hospital.

“After discussion with my consultant we reluctantly agreed that the best measure from a patient safety perspective would be for me to attend this shift, despite it being unsafe and bad for my personal training/development. Unfortunately, I did not manage much sleep before coming in for the night due to the short notice.

“Between myself and the other SHO on ward cover we were responsible for the care of 436 patients between the two of us, while carrying the crash bleep which covers the whole hospital.”

Dr Peter Rowe, Deputy Medical Director for Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust, says they are having difficulty in recruiting junior doctors, with 68 current vacancies.