Time to take action on doctor fatigue

March 17th is World Sleep Day and the Royal College of Anaesthetists and  the Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland are calling for action on the issue of safe working hours for doctors.

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On World Sleep Day, which highlights the importance of getting adequate sleep, the Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland (AAGBI) sets out its three-point plan to address the culture surrounding doctor fatigue in hospitals and tackle the problem of excessive fatigue. Such fatigue is known to impair decision making, with consequences for both doctors and their patients. Fatigue at the end of night shifts is of particular concern, with the tragic reports of doctors who have died in car accidents, having fallen asleep at the wheel on their drive home following a night shift.

A survey by the Royal College of Anaesthetists (RCoA) also shows that 85% of junior anaesthetists are at high risk of burnout; fatigue is known to be a risk factor for this.

Through a fatigue task group with partners including the RCoA, the AAGBI has devised the following 3-point plan:

  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.

 

Patients ‘at risk’ as the anaesthetists shortage is predicted to increase

Campbell, D. The Observer. Published online: 11th June 2016

11415-2The NHS faces a critical shortage of anaesthetists that could force operations to be delayed and even threaten patient safety, doctors’ leaders have warned.

New research shows that by 2033 every hospital trust will have 10-20 fewer consultant anaesthetists than they will need to meet rising patient demand. It estimates that, while the NHS has agreed that its total of anaesthetists should expand to 11,800 by that date, on current trends it is likely to reach only 8,000 – a shortfall of 3,800, or about 33%.

The Royal College of Anaesthetists (RCoA), which carried out the research, warned that patients and the smooth running of hospitals would be hit if the existing shortfall in numbers was allowed to increase. Dr Liam Brennan, the college’s president, said: “Anaesthetists possess a unique and non-transferable skill set that is essential to maintaining core hospital services, so the potential impact of a reduced anaesthetic workforce would have serious implications for patient safety across the whole NHS. We already have fewer than we need and the shortages are worrying.”

The college’s latest census of the UK’s anaesthesia workforce, the first since 2010, also found that 74% of hospitals already rely on locum anaesthetists hired from medical employment agencies to ensure their rotas are full. The cost of that is part of the NHS’s huge annual bill – £3.7bn a year in England alone – for temporary staff.

Read the full news story here