Newly qualified doctors do not feel they have the training to look after very ill patients, according to a new study.
The research found that their more senior colleagues also do not believe they have the right skills to deal with acutely ill patients
There has been heavy criticism over the last few years of the fact that junior doctors are often left dealing with very sick patients at weekends and bank holidays.
Last month, the Hospital Guide from Dr Foster Intelligence found patients needing emergency care are almost 10 per cent more likely to die if they are admitted to hospitals on weekends. They are also less likely to get prompt treatment.
Hospitals with the fewest senior doctors on duty had the highest death rates, reflecting concerns about a lack of consultant cover.
But the latest research, published in the Postgraduate Medical Journal, also suggests the education of junior doctors is a key issue.
Experts analysed the results of 10 studies on the views of newly qualified doctors, consultants and education supervisors about junior doctor preparedness.
The research found that junior doctors felt poorly prepared for dealing with acutely sick patients compared with other aspects of care.
More senior doctors also agreed with this assessment.
Furthermore, those studies which enabled people to expand on their responses found that acute care consistently showed up as an area of concern.
The papers also suggest the problem has got worse since the introduction of new standards for medical training introduced by the General Medical Council in 2003.
The authors, from the University of Edinburgh, said: “The assimilation of evidence in this review suggests that recent changes in UK undergraduate training, while improving preparedness in some areas, may have neglected acute care.”
They added that the results “may be of little surprise” to those involved in either undergraduate or postgraduate medical training.
Professor Norman Williams, president of the Royal College of Surgeons, said: “These findings about low confidence of new doctors in coping with acutely ill patients do not come as a surprise.
“Current restrictions to working hours mean thin rotas that leave these doctors exposed and make it hard for them to build experience.”
Health minister Anne Milton said: “Patients should have access to properly qualified and adequately experienced doctors as and when they need them, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
“We know that some hospitals have measures in place to make sure that good care is provided around the clock - including support from senior doctors.
“If that can happen in some places, there is no reason why it can’t happen across the NHS.”