Joint initiative launched to address the impact of fatigue on doctors

Published: 13/12/2017

Following the tragic death of an anaesthetic trainee who fell asleep while driving home after a hospital night shift, the College, the Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland (AAGBI), and the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine (FICM) have launched an initiative to address the impact of fatigue and shift working on doctors and the consequences for wellbeing and patient safety.

To raise awareness of the dangers of fatigue amongst doctors, our organisations are calling for action across the NHS. We have produced an educational resource pack for NHS leaders and managers to encourage the provision of adequate rest and catering facilities in hospitals. The Fatigue Awareness Educational Resource Packs are being initially rolled out to all NHS Hospitals and Health Boards in England, Wales and Scotland, with further distribution to follow.

The RCoA, AAGBI and FICM are urging the NHS and the Health and Safety Executive to respond to the widespread impact of fatigue and shift working on doctors and other clinical staff, and the potential serious consequences for staff wellbeing and patient safety.

Dr Liam Brennan, President of the Royal College of Anaesthetists, said:
Unless we act, the increasingly difficult working conditions for doctors, particularly those in training, will impact on our ability to deliver consistently safe, high quality patient care. We urge all relevant bodies to work with the RCoA, AAGBI and FICM to seek long-term solutions to the problem of fatigue affecting 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 appropriately care and value our workforce so that they can continue to maintain the commitment and dedication that our patients need and deserve.”

Dr Paul Clyburn, President of the Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland said: “Fatigue self-assessment and risk management are not familiar steps in routine daily practice. This pack provides some simple resources to help educate clinical staff and their managers about fatigue. We hope that by collectively taking responsibility for making changes to working practice, we can improve working conditions for staff, for the benefit of patients.”

The distribution of the fatigue resource packs forms part of a wider awareness campaign to draw attention to the scale and impact of the problem, and encourage a change in the culture surrounding doctor fatigue in hospitals through education and information.

This follows the publication of a study of 2,231 trainees titled, ‘A national survey of the effects of fatigue on trainees in anaesthesia in the UK’, published in the journal Anaesthesia, which found that more than half of NHS junior doctors who responded have experienced an accident or near miss when driving home after a night shift.