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The big question: do you welcome the CNO’s review of 12-hour shifts?


The impact of 12-hour shifts on patients and staff is to be reviewed by NHS England as part of its plan to implement the chief nursing officer for England’s national nursing strategy.

Professor Juliet Beal, NHS England’s director of nursing for quality and improvement, told Nursing Times the review would focus on which shift patterns were most appropriate for different settings.

“There is a concern that for some nurses in some areas working 12 hours might be a very long shift to work – 12 hours is a very long time to do something that requires a lot of emotional labour.”

What do you think of 12-hour shifts?

Your comments could be published in Nursing Times.


Readers' comments (10)

  • Perhaps she should be reviewing 13 hour shifts as this is what most of us on 12 hour shifts have to do as we do not get paid for our break-which other industries do not pay for breaks?? Let me guess only the NHS!! and us hard working underpaid nurses!!

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  • Personally I don't like 12 hour shifts. I find them too demanding. Im a bit long in the tooth now. I prefer 8 hour shifts, it means I can go home without feeling like c...!

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  • Staff shortages often mean nurses have to cover double shifts amounting to 15 hours. There is just not enough staff if they don't do it, yet they may feel too exhausted to do it safely. It is also often the culture to be frowned on if one takes a break, even an unpaid one.

    I also think a lot should be done regarding GPs and their employment conditions of their staff. Receptionists, I have observed get no break away from the phone. When I queried this with the GP who employes them, his reply was he couldn't afford it!

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  • Although 51 yrs old and just beginning as a Nursing Assistant, I welcome the 12.5 hr shifts as I think it provides patients with continuity and particularly with dementia patients they aren't so confused by too many different faces. Often the elderly feel quite vunerable in hospital and to receive care from the same person throughout the day makes them less anxious.

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  • I don't think anyone should be forced to work a 12 hour day even if it is good for patients. If some nurses find it too long either for their own health or family commitments, then they count as well.

    What is OK for one person might be intolerable to another and that has to be considered on behalf of patient safety.

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  • Long overdue.

    In a very busy ward where you're on your feet all the time - a 12 hour shift is horrendous. A recent return to bank nursing saw my back give up after 6 hours. Personally, I think nurses are more inclined towards self-preservation rather than care in a 12 hour shift.

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  • once in a new job in a care home I asked for help to lift a patient around twice my own weight from bed to wheelchair. I was told by the HCAs and nurse in charge i could do it myself. Although I had learnt to lift during training and never had any problems, we were always two with heavier patients and I had not yet been on the new course all of these staff had attended. When I said i did not wish to injure my back the response from the nursing director (also a hands on carer) was we all have bad backs here! Although this was no reason for me to risk mine, unfortunately private clinics seem to have rules of their own so I had no choice but to get on with it.

    It strikes me this is the same as the attitude of employers in the NHS to nurses doing 12 hour shifts with little regard for their health and safety. When I worked in a uni hospital they also had many exceptions to employment laws with their own regulations regarding hours of work, shifts, breaks, etc. to ensure enough staff around the clock. It seems this must also be the case in the NHS otherwise the health and safety of staff would be protected by law and defended by OT and the H&S executive.

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  • In a survey carried out by the Nursing Times a year or so ago, the majority of nurses agreed that they were more likely to make mistakes on a twelve-hour shift. A majority also said they preferred to go on working twelve hour shifts. It seems bizarre that some of the same nurses, whilst aware they could make more mistakes, still would rather continue working twelve hour shifts. Though we weren't supplied with a Venn diagram so we don't know how many nurses supported both options. As to nurses not taking breaks, I always take my breaks and I have never been informed that this had an adverse effect on patient care. I was probably giving better care because I had a break. Too often nurses will agree to bad working practices foisted on them by management when they should stand-up for themselves and stop covering for bad management.

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  • I am currently working for a nursing agency mostly in care home settings. Most of these place work 12 hour shifts some even 14. After 10 hours or so I am tired and wanting to go home, and have to consciously try to maintain compassion. Most of the patients I work with have dementia and, I think deserve my compassion and patience.

    On a 12 hour shift- especially 2 or three in a row it is a challenge to look after myself properly- get a hot meal and so on. I am type 2 diabetic- which is NOT a disability but these length shifts make it so- which is discrimatory.

    I usually have breakfast about 6 am in order to get to work and by the time I have done the drug round etc I rarely get a break of any kind until 11.30 at best. that is usually 15 mins which isn't long enough to have a meal. So I frequently have to go over 8 hours between meals. I find that it takes at least a day if not more to recover from these shifts.

    I cannot see that it serves the patients if nurses are working at the end of their tethers in this way.

    There is one place I have been to where they work a 14 hour shift and expect the day staff to administer the night time medications. How safe is it after working over 12 hours to be giving out medications?

    I welcome the review. I hope it means more humane shifts are put in place. I do appreciate having extra days off but given how exhausted I am I think I would be better working shorter shifts.

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  • I have worked in the armed forces and have been posted to a Ministry of Defence Hospital unit at Frimley Park hospital prior to what I am doing now. This was a time when we did early and late shifts and a night shift actually started at night and not 1900 as it does today. The Nhs increasing demands and changes to the population health needs only further demonstrates the impossible task of staying concentrated, empathetic and compassionate throughout 12.5 hr shifts. i believe that this hinders patients care especially in the acute care setting. Individuals health needs are far more complex to what they have ever been and shorter ( but may i add) Normal hours of working gives you the rest bite that is so greatly needed. Different settings demands different paces and different physical and emotional needs to both patients and staff themselves. This is a review in my opinion that s greatly needed so that todays challenges are dealt with on a much more realistic ground. I do not believe that continuity of care is an issue when on lots of wards there are still patients that are inpatients for several weeks. Communication is the most effective way of dealing with this and not 12.5 hr shifts!!

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