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NHS ‘missing a trick’ with junior doctors

Jennifer Scott

Junior doctors could offer a lot of insight into hospital operations and NHS IT managers should work with them on new processes.

This was the belief of Dr Wai Keong Wong, a haemotology registrar at the Royal Free NHS Foundation Trust, who spoke at this week’s HC2013 conference in Birmingham.

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He claimed most junior doctors fall between the ages of 24 and 38 – an age range from which other industries source great innovation from.  

“We [junior doctors] are at the age when a lot of other industries have been creating Google or Facebook, Apple or Microsoft, so in most other organisations this is the age where efforts are put into cultivating and developing the skills necessary to lead organisations and services in the future,” said Dr Wong.

“This doesn’t quite happen in the NHS and I think we are missing a trick.”

Junior doctors change jobs regularly, with Dr Wong himself having working in four cities, 10 different hospitals and in more than 20 departments in recent years. He said this experience could both benefit and hinder a clinician’s involvement in IT processes.

You would never use a blunt knife to perform surgery. We need to use better tools elsewhere

Dr Wai Keong Wong

“It is difficult to get involved in change management or contribute to improvements in an organisation when you are busy trying to learn to settle in, keep afloat and gain the trust of fellow colleagues,” he said. “They need time to figure you out and see if they want to involve you.

“It is very difficult to build this trust in a short period of time, so it is not really that surprising that we don’t get very involved in a lot of projects [as] we don’t stay long enough.”

However, Dr Wong added: “It might be hard but it is essential that we are involved. We are a high-achieving bunch, we are highly motivated and [by] working in many different hospitals, we see when things are done well, or not done so well, so we can bring a lot of intelligence to organisations.”

“Also because we are not permanent staff, we are more likely to say something when we are not happy, but, most importantly, we use a cross section of all the IT systems in the hospital under the most challenging conditions. We have a lot to offer.”

He called upon IT managers to embrace this and start conversations with junior doctors with their own hospitals.  

“NHS [IT] managers, I urge you to introduce yourselves to us,” said Dr Wong. “We have got a lot to learn from you and I have a feeling we have a lot to offer you.”

“Think about Wi-Fi and giving us some access to the internet, that would be a good start, and for goodness sake please don’t cripple the internet for us by making us rely on Internet Explorer 7.”

The junior doctor concluded: “You would never use a blunt knife to perform surgery. We need to use better tools elsewhere.”


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