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.
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:
- 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.
- Roll out of a fatigue education programme informing doctors and their managers about fatigue and how they can reduce its risks.
- Defining the standards for adequate rest facilities and cultural attitudes towards rest in hospitals.