Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Is it possible to "achieve a balance" and meet the "safety net"? Paediatric Advisory Subcommittee to the North West Thames Regional Health Authority.

British Medical Journal 1989; 299 doi: (Published 30 September 1989) Cite this as: British Medical Journal 1989;299:841
  1. S. A. Jones,
  2. I. Kovar,
  3. M. Williams,
  4. D. Bentley
  1. North West Thames Regional Health Authority, London.


    The government's document Hospital Medical Staffing--Achieving a Balance--Plan for Action introduced the concept of a "safety net"--that is, a minimum safe level of staffing--of junior doctors in the acute specialties. The North West Thames Paediatric Advisory Group has therefore reviewed the implications and consequences of implementing the safety net in respect of children's services. The group found that if a reasonable safety net was to be provided that enabled the services to stay within the projected junior staffing levels, maintain a balance, meet training needs, and reduce junior doctors' hours of work, then changes in the organisation of the services would be required. Examining the options available showed that to achieve a safety net within the projected numbers of junior staff at least six paediatric units in the region would have to close. It is doubtful if there is the political will to support the very radical changes that would be needed in the distribution of services if the government's recommendations in Achieving a Balance were to be implemented. The profession, the Department of Health, and the public must be made aware that the proposed changes in medical staffing will cause a fundamental change in the traditional pattern of delivery of health care.