There is “absolutely no evidence” that patient safety is compromised when trainee doctors replace more experienced staff in August, according to the Scottish government.
Two respected medical societies claim evidence is emerging to suggest that patients admitted in August have a higher early death rate than at other times.
This month sees the annual changeover when an estimated 50,000 doctors in the UK take on new roles, with new trainee doctors replacing doctors already in training.
The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh and the Society of Acute Medicine said there has been growing concern that this causes instability, poor safety and reduced patient care.
The societies surveyed more than 700 doctors and found that 90 per cent of respondents believe the changeover has a negative impact on patient safety.
Dr Louella Vaughan, honorary consultant physician in acute medicine, and lead author of the study, said: “The results of this survey add to the emerging evidence base which indicates that the current August changeover system increases a number of risks for patients, including an increased early death rate for patients admitted to hospital at this time.”
Dr Neil Dewhurst, president of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, said: “For many years doctors have been aware of practical problems caused by this annual changeover.
“Formal evidence in support of our concerns has, however, been limited, but is now increasing and has reached the level where it should not be ignored.”
However, a Scottish government spokeswoman said they have “absolutely no evidence” to link the national training changeover of doctors in August to any increased risks to patient safety in NHS Scotland.
She added: “Since the launch of the Scottish Patient Safety Programme in 2008 we have seen major improvements and it is vital for patients to have confidence that when they access any part of the healthcare system, they will receive the best available treatment without fear of harm.
“The national training changeover of doctors is an established feature of the national postgraduate medical training curriculum, and boards have systems in place to ensure the maintenance of high quality care at the changeovers for doctors in training.
“These include induction progresses and pre-August shadowing arrangements for newly-qualified doctors. The arrangements are supported by senior medical staff and advanced nurse practitioners and patient safety is a key focus.
“We will however consider the findings of this study.”