Public health on-call in Scotland: how much experience is sufficient?

G McCartney, J K Dunbar, J Morling, C Johnman, H Gilmour

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


ObjectivesTo quantify the out-of-hours experience obtained by public health trainees in Scotland and to assess whether this is sufficient to meet the Faculty of Public Health guidelines.

Study design
Prospective survey.

All public health trainees in Scotland were invited to participate in a prospective survey of out-of-hours experience. Data were collected from March 2009 to March 2010. The variation in the experience between trainees was compared according to the size, urban/rural mix, and deprivation of the population for which they were responsible. The variation in the experiences gained were then compared to the requirements of the Faculty of Public Health. Results

18 trainees participated from 6 areas, collecting data on 391 shifts and a total of 276 calls. For every 50 shifts the median number of notifications of probable meningococcus was 3.7 and the median number of chemical incidents and Escherichia coli O157 notifications was 0.0. This variation is difficult to interpret because some trainees collected data for only a short period. The variation between trainees was not significantly related to population size, deprivation or rurality. Pooling the data from all trainees, there was a mean of 2.9 probable meningococcus notifications, 2.4 E coli O157 calls, and 0.3 chemical incident calls per 50 shifts.

There is a large and unpredictable degree of variation in the on-call experience of Scottish trainees. The minimum recommended number of on-call shifts may not be adequate to ensure a high proportion of trainees are prepared for unsupervised on-call.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-9
Number of pages5
JournalPostgraduate Medical Journal
Issue number1035
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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