Exclusive: Move would be first in NHS history, as internal documents seen by the Guardian show junior staff often left in charge of casualty unit.
An A&E unit has been threatened with closure on safety grounds for the first time in the NHS’s history, amid fears that its 500 patients a day are at what the medical regulator calls “serious risk” of suffering harm. The General Medical Council, which regulates doctors, and Health Education England, the NHS’s staffing agency, have both issued the unprecedented warnings to North Middlesex hospital over what one local MP described as “a catalogue of failings” in its emergency department.
Unpublished internal confidential NHS documents seen by the Guardian reveal widespread alarm in the NHS locally and nationally that some of the hospital’s A&E doctors lack the basic skills to do their jobs, and that young, inexperienced doctors have been asked to perform tasks they were not qualified to undertake.
There are also occasions on which, despite their lack of experience, “junior staff [are] being left in charge of the [emergency] department, highlighting a probable risk to patients”, a private meeting of NHS chiefs was told last month. There is also serious concern that just two of the 26 junior doctors in training in the A&E have ever worked in an emergency department before and that care in the unit overnight is described as “an area of significant risk” to patient safety.
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Ambulances outside A&E at North Middlesex hospital.