Almost 300 Leeds final-year student doctors are being asked to volunteer to do extra unpaid shifts at the region’s hospitals in response to “unprecedented demand” on NHS services.
The agreement between six Yorkshire NHS trusts and the University of Leeds, which is not compulsory for students, gives fifth-year trainee doctors the chance to work extra hours as volunteers alongside senior staff and clinicians on top of their regular placement hours.
Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust and Harrogate and District NHS Trust are among the regional trusts to benefit from the voluntary work.
Unions have expressed concern over the move, claiming it will put students who are yet to qualify under added pressure.
GMB regional organiser Joan Keane said: “It places students under a different kind of pressure, they are relatively inexperienced and if they are doing their own shifts at each hospital and then extra, they get tired and their concentration goes.”
She said that the reaction to an increase in demand comes down to a lack of suitable Government funding for the NHS.
The 280 students, who receive a bursary to cover travel expenses and subsistence, would undertake familiar work such as taking bloods and clerking while working closely with senior staff from Leeds School of Medicine and local NHS trusts.
The university and regional hospital trusts are confident that the move will aid patient care and give future doctors “valuable additional clinical experience”.
Professor Paul Stewart, dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Health at the university, said the institution’s final year students already spend 90 per cent of their time on placement shadowing senior staff. He said: “Recognising the current strain that the NHS is under, we wanted to offer our additional support.”
Dr Yvette Oade, chief medical officer at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, added that the move showed the commitment to “develop the highly skilled doctors of the future”.