FEELING able to ask ‘silly questions’ is crucial to starting any new job, but probably even more so for young doctors.

For the first time at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, the new intake of junior medics have been assigned a second year ‘mentor’, to provide extra support which has not traditionally been available.

NHS workers have been under increasing pressure to deal with rising demand for services, but with patients’ lives at stake, it is vital that junior staff feel confident to ask questions and check their actions when in doubt.

David Leigh, 25, a second year doctor who has helped set up the scheme said: “I think it’s helpful to have somebody there as another line of support.

“Or if you’re worried you might have a silly question or sound stupid.

“They (the senior doctors) are all very busy and you do sometimes come across problems when there isn’t anyone to talk to.

“Coming from medical school straight into an acute hospital means that the new doctors have to find their feet very quickly.

“They have an enormous amount of responsibility that they’ve not previously had, such as being allowed to prescribe, make referrals and have the nursing team looking to them for guidance.

“Sometimes this can get overwhelming and so each new doctor is assigned a mentor who they can meet for guidance and ask questions that they may not feel they can go to more senior members of staff with.”

The new intake of 69 first year doctors started on Wednesday and they will stay with the ELHT for the next two years before moving to different hospitals for specialty training.

Many live in staff accommodation at the Royal Blackburn amd Burnley General sites.

Linda Whitfield, head of clinical education, said: “Life as a junior doctor can be a steep learning curve but we are confident that we are offering the right support to ensure they learn from their peers and that patient safety is not compromised in any way.

“David has been instrumental in setting up this mentoring scheme and I’m confident that our new doctors will really benefit from this.”

The junior doctors are joined by nearly 200 speciality trainees who are beginning on-the-job training in their chosen areas including paediatrics, surgery and GP training.