On World Sleep Day, time to take action on doctor fatigue

Today is World Sleep Day and we join with the Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland in calling for action on the issue of safe working hours for doctors.

The AAGBI has established a three-point plan to address the issue:

  1. Support publication of a national survey about junior doctor fatigue, covering accessibility of hospital rest facilities, commuting after working night shifts and the impact of fatigue on physical and psychological health.
  2. Roll out of a fatigue education programme informing doctors and their managers about fatigue and how they can reduce its risks.
  3. Defining the standards for adequate rest facilities and cultural attitudes towards rest in hospitals.

Dr Liam Brennan, President of the Royal College of Anaesthetists said:

Our own workforce research has shown the pressures junior doctors are under, with six out of every seven trainee anaesthetists reporting a high risk of burnout.

Many of these doctors are working long hours and the disruption of working night shifts is a cause of physical and mental health problems.

Unless we act, the increasingly difficult working conditions for doctors, particularly doctors in training, will impact on our ability to deliver quality patient care.

If we fail to address working conditions in our hospitals, we will struggle to maintain the quality of care our patients expect and which we expect of ourselves.

We urge all relevant bodies to work with us to look for long-term solutions to the problems of burnout within our NHS staff and call for the necessary investment to support over-stretched front line services.

These proposals are an important first step in ensuring we look after our highly-skilled workforce and continue to maintain the highest standards of patient care.

For more information about this issue, read the results from the RCoA’s morale and welfare survey.

17 March 2017