A JUNIOR doctor came into work at Poole Hospital on a rest day to help her department cope with staff shortages.

With one doctor unwell and the others on study leave or rest days, the hospital’s ear, nose and throat (ENT) centre was left without any cover until one of the junior doctors provided “minimal” staffing after coming in on what should have been a rest day.

The issue has been described as “commonplace” by the chairman of the British Medical Association’s junior doctors’ committee who said it highlighted the NHS’ “extreme” staff shortages.

In a report published by Poole Hospitals Trust, its guardian of safe working, consultant clinical oncologist Dr Susannah Brock, said that doctors working within the department were working “excessive hours” and that increased staffing levels were required.

She said: “The ENT department have been made aware that their junior doctors are working excessive hours, with safety concerns.

“The issues are not solvable by rewriting rotas, rather they require increased staffing levels, redeployment of more senior staff or reduction in clinical activity.”

The chairman of the British Medical Association’s junior doctors’ committee, Dr Jeeves Wijesuriya, said that "chronic understaffing" was responsible for similar incidents up and down the country.

“Reports such as this are commonplace in hospitals across the country, and highlight the extreme staffing shortages the NHS is facing.

“Having a guardian of safe working and a system of exception reporting, which the BMA secured as part of the junior doctor contract negotiations, have been vital to ensuring doctors are encouraged and feel able to report serious incidents such as these.

“Trusts then have a duty to take immediate and necessary action to ensure staff and patients are protected from further such incidents.

“In addition, the BMA and NHS Employers recently published rostering guidance to make sure new rules agreed during the contract negotiations – over areas such rest breaks and time limits – are understood by junior doctors and adhered to by bosses.

“However, as noted in these papers, chronic understaffing cannot always be solved by rewriting rotas and in fact this is often not the best solution.

“In many cases, there are simply not enough doctors on a roster and trusts must take steps to provide appropriate staffing to support trainees and provide the best possible care for patients.”

The incident was reported to the trust by a doctor who deemed it to be an "immediate safety concern".