Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Patients 'endangered by shift work'


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.

Click here to read the Shift-work, Rest And Sleep: Minimising The Risks report



Readers' comments (11)

  • So the poor doctors are doing the same shifts as us nurses and surprise surprise they have the same findings that nurses have been talking about for years.
    However their current shift patterns have to be better for their health than the 100 hours per week + that junior docs used to do.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I have no doubt that the shift patterns that are harmful to doctors are also harmful to nurses. Isn't it time nurses demanded shift patterns that are more conducive to our health and well-being. (That includes valuing single people's relationships and roles too, e.g. those who might not have a relative who they care for, but might give to society/their community through voluntary work.) Let's do our work well, but try to avoid matrimonial arrangements with our jobs. I'm fairly sure the difference between doctors and nurses includes the balance of men and women and the different expectations that go along with that...the degree to which nurses (mainly women) are valued and are expected (and take on for themselves the expectation) to 'just get on with it'. Rather than having a go at doctors for seeking to look after their health and well-being, let's get assertive about our own needs for a balanced life.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • In response to this article. Welcome to our world.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Oh so yet another example of one rule for them ...

    Nurses have far more woeful working patterns than Doctors.

    It isn't the shifts themselves that are the problem though, it is 24 hour care and so some form of shift pattern will be needed. Where all the problems come in is the application of these patterns by managers. Most shift workers have at least some attempt at routine, 1 week of Earlys, 1 of Lates, etc. And they certainly have enough turnaround from nights.

    At the moment, Nurses are expected to work shifts completely at random. Late, early, late, early, day off, week of nights, barely a days turnaround then earlys again with split days off is often the norm. This is unbelievably unhealthy! Is it any wonder the sickness and burnout levels are so high amongst Nurses?

    Doctors have better hours, better working conditions and far superior pay. They have nothing to whinge about.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I am amazed at the comletely arrogant and ignorant doctor bashing going on here.

    Doctors may not work the hours they used to but they work significantly longer hours than nurses on the whole. The criticisms above have little foundation and are generally formed out of jealousy and bitterness I feel.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Arrogant and ignorant doctor bashing? You are joking right? When Doctors are available EVERY shift, on EVERY ward, doing the same shifts that Nurses do, then you may have a point. Untill then I reserve the right to dismiss your point as nonsense.

    Significantly longer hours than Nurses? Don't make me laugh! The simple fact is they get paid more for doing less!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • garth marenghi | 1-Jun-2010 9:52 am

    I am amazed at the comletely arrogant and ignorant doctor bashing going on here.

    I agree with this comment. why is every article used as an excuse for 'doctor bashing' - what about a bit of 'nurse bashing' as well to give you a taste of your own medicine.

    do the nurses who write these comments have some sort of chip on their shoulder of feelings of inferiority? or maybe they are just disappointed doctors who didn't make the grade and resent, for reasons only known to themselves, their more highly qualified and more intelligent medical colleagues!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • If some arogant nurses think that they know it all they must all remember that other colleagues, including doctors, don't and have to learn by experience and that is there right. everybody grows by experience in their job and develops skills and self confidence which can be enhanced by others who offer constructive criticism and offer them, when they need it, guiding hand. bullying and doctor bashing or other colleague bashing helps absolutely no one and usually reflects upon the person, who does it, but who usually tries to hide behind a mask, more than the one who makes the error. stress, anxiety, lack of time, uncertainties and lack of self confidence lead to further errors to the detriment of patients and everybody else.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Instead of nurses having a go at doctors and vice-versa why dont we all stand together and support each other in the fight for better support, more reasonable working hours, better pay and better working conditions? It is while we all waste time having a go at our colleagues and other professionals who are suffering the same quality of working conditions and equally bogged down by the system that we are depleting our strength in numbers to actually stand up to the government and those making lots of money at our expense (ie cheif exec's etc etc) and fight for a better quality of working environment and more reasonable working hours!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I am a registrar level doctor and came across this site when I googled a different topic. I am shocked to read the bitter and nasty comments by some of the writers in response to this article. I had suspected that there is an anti doctor feeling among some nurses but Reading this site confirms this. I find this really disappointing.

    Our professions do different jobs but have the same aims.

    Might I point out that I have sometimes found a lot of nurses difficult, stroppy and obstructive but I would never tar the whole profession with such prejudices.

    It's about understanding each others difficulties and limitations and working together. You don't need to fight with us. If that is the culture in the political wing of the nursing profession, it is not in the interests of patient care or harmonious working.

    I am deeply shocked.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Show 1020results per page

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.