• Junior doctors’ rotations paused amid coronavirus outbreak
  • Comes as NHS faces ‘increased burden due to covid-19’
  • Trainee docs and nurses could help coronavirus efforts

Junior doctors’ rotations have been put on hold as the NHS continues to prepare for combating the coronavirus pandemic.

More than 20,000 trainees were set to be part of the next planned rotations, due to take place on 1 April next month, but this has been postponed by Health Education England and other agencies amid concerns on the impact it could have on an already strained health service.

The announcement comes after chief medical officer for England Professor Chris Whitty said final-year students and first-year doctors could be drafted in to help treat coronavirus cases.

A letter sent to relevant trainees by HEE, the General Medical Council and others, today said: “The next planned rotation of postgraduate medical trainees is due to take place on 1 April and would involve in excess of 20,000 doctors across the UK, at a time when the NHS will be facing an increased burden due to covid-19.

“It has therefore been decided that all planned rotations due to take place during the ‘delay phase’ of covid-19 will cease, with trainees being asked to stay in their present working environment, unless local arrangements allow otherwise, or wider clinical circumstances require it.”

It added that rotations may only happen where departmental inductions, appropriate supervision and support “can be guaranteed”.

Colin Melville, medical director and director of standards at the General Medical Council, told HSJ it supported the decision which was made by the UK’s four medical education bodies.

He said: “Like all doctors, trainees may be asked to work flexibly if the coronavirus pandemic gets worse. We are clear that in these exceptional circumstances appropriate supervision should remain in place and that doctors should not be asked to work outside of their competences.

“Ultimately we are committed to making sure the pandemic does not compromise long-term training needs or patient safety. Any possible interruptions to training programmes will be considered as part of trainees’ annual progression reviews.”

Sheona MacLeod, deputy medical director for education reform at Health Education England, said: “HEE is working with partners including the devolved nations, the General Medical Council, Nursing and Midwifery Council, NHS England and NHS Improvement and universities – to ensure we are doing everything we safely can to maximise the contribution current students and trainees can, and will make to frontline services and dealing with the coronavirus outbreak.”

NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens also confirmed last Wednesday that third-year undergraduate trainee nurses would be invited into clinical practice in the efforts to tackle covid-19.