The practice of shift-working for doctors is likely to endanger patient safety, a report by BMA Scotland has said.
Doctors working shifts are more likely to not get enough sleep and will be more likely to have poor health, the group’s committee for junior doctors said.
The report, Shift-work, Rest And Sleep: Minimising The Risks, said employers must introduce safer rotas for their staff and ensure junior doctors especially are given more rest breaks during night shifts.
Many junior doctors do irregular shifts, although their shift patterns may well comply with the European Working Time Directive. However, the report said extended periods of having to work unsociable hours can seriously damage the well-being and health of doctors.
The report said “poor rota design” of shift patterns can create shift structures “predisposed to high-intensity work” which are likely to cause fatigue and can place “unacceptable burdens of risk” onto doctors and patients.
The key to good shift rota design is avoiding excessive out-of-hours working, the report said.