McClelland, L. et al. | A national survey of the effects of fatigue on trainees in anaesthesia in the UK | Anaesthesia |2017; 72: 1069–77
Long shifts remain a major feature of working life for trainees in anaesthesia. Over the past 10 years, there has been an increase in awareness and understanding of the potential effects of fatigue on both the doctor and the patient. Despite the introduction of the European Working Time Directive into UK law, reducing the maximum hours worked by junior doctors, there is evidence that problems with inadequate rest and fatigue persist.
These authors conducted a national survey to assess the incidence and effects of fatigue among the 3772 anaesthetists in training within the UK.
A response rate of 59% was achieved, with data from 100% of NHS trusts. The results suggested that fatigue remains prevalent among junior anaesthetists, with 73.6% saying that it has effects on physical health, 71.2% that it affects psychological wellbeing and 67.9% that personal relationships are affected. The most problematic factor remains night shift work, with many respondents commenting on the absence of breaks, inadequate rest facilities and 57.0% stating that they had experienced an accident or near-miss when travelling home from night shifts.
The authors discuss potential explanations for the results, and present a plan to address the issues raised by their survey, aiming to change the culture around fatigue for the better.
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