RCoA and British Medical Association call for action on rest facilities for NHS staff

The Royal College of Anaesthetists and the British Medical Association (BMA) are calling on the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to deliver on his priority of “valuing, fighting for and championing NHS staff”, by ensuring all healthcare staff have access to high-quality rest facilities. Providing a dedicated quiet space for staff to rest at the end of a shift will go some way to not only address the erosion of welfare and morale, but help them to provide safe and sustainable patient care.

A recent survey by the Royal College of Anaesthetists found nearly half of hospital doctors (49%) do not have access to a dedicated place to rest during or at the end of their shift.

Due to the rotational nature of the work, with many doctors working far from home, with the long, often stressful hours, a place to rest is of particular importance to prevent the kind of exhaustion that could put doctors and patients at risk.

The survey also found one in ten (9%) hospital doctors are being charged for a place to rest during or at the end of their shift.

Of those respondents who did have access to rest facilities, approximately one third (31%) rated the facilities as poor or very poor with only 24% rating them as good or very good.

The BMA’s recent ‘Caring, Supportive, Collaborative?’ report found 21% of doctors said improvements to rest facilities would improve their day-to-day working life.

Doctors working in acute care where an around-the-clock service is required, are not consistently being provided with dedicated facilities to allow them to rest after their shifts – some of which can be more than 12 hours and run through the night.

One anaesthetist responded to the RCoA survey saying there had been a least one fatality in their locality after a doctor was commuting home following a shift. The same respondent said that they had a three-hour daily commute but would still be charged a fee to rest before driving home.

Another respondent said they could claim back the cost of using the available rest facilities, but it could often take up to six months to be reimbursed despite a strict time period during which claims must be submitted.

Professor Ravi Mahajan, President of the Royal College of Anaesthetists said:

“The Secretary of State has said that the health and well-being of the workforce is one of his top priorities and this is welcomed. Valuing our NHS staff and keeping them fit and healthy so they can provide the highest level of care for their patients, is something we should all be championing.

“We know, however, that some hospitals don’t provide doctors and other front-line healthcare workers with adequate facilities to relax in, let alone even a sofa to nap on before travelling home. This after completing a high-pressure shift working in what can be a very stressful clinical environment.

“We all understand there are pressures on space, but a small injection of capital funding could allow hospitals to address the lack of adequate rest facilities - something our data clearly shows is leading to high levels of fatigue and low morale among staff.

“Many of the steps needed to put the NHS on a more sustainable footing will take time and require long-term planning and investment, but righting this wrong is relatively easy to solve if it is made a priority by local and national NHS leadership”.

Dr Jeeves Wijesuriya, BMA junior doctor’s committee chair, said:

“The impact of fatigue on both a doctor and their patients can be extremely serious.

“Due to the rotational nature of their work, junior doctors are especially likely to face long commutes to and from their places of work, often after long shifts, and they may be required to work in locations with poor public transport services.

“This is why the BMA has long campaigned for safer worker conditions and the provision of adequate rest facilities for doctors, to ensure that they don't have to drive when they are too tired and that accidents can be avoided.

“A recent announcement from the Department of Health and Social Care on providing £10m for hospitals to provide adequate rest facilities will go some of the way towards alleviating the problem, but having proper rest facilities should be considered basic good practice and should be available for all doctors.”

19 November 2018