Junior doctors are to get a rest period of 46 hours after working a run of night shifts in an attempt to reduce fatigue, it has been announced.
The new protocol will be introduced by August 2019 and follows widespread concern over the impact of lack of sleep on junior doctors, particularly when they change from night shift to day shift.
The move has come as a result of discussions between the BMA, Scottish Government and NHS boards on how to improve patient safety.
Chair of BMA Scotland’s Junior Doctors Committee Dr Adam Collins said: “I am delighted that we have been able to reach agreement on implementing these measures that will make a tangible difference to the working lives of junior doctors.
“Evidence shows that moving from night shifts to day shifts is one of the biggest causes of exhaustion we face in our working patterns. Fatigue is a risk to junior doctors and a risk to our patients, which is why securing a safer approach to rostering doctors has been my highest priority as chair.”
In Scotland, the problem of fatigue among junior doctors was brought into sharp focus following the car crash death of Lauren Connelly, 23, in 2011. Dr Connelly had been driving home after a 12-hour shift at Inverclyde Royal Hospital. It is thought she may have lost control of the vehicle after falling asleep at the wheel.
Her father, Brian Connelly, said his daughter had been exhausted working ten and 12-day stretches without a day off during the seven weeks prior to her death. The BMA also announced plans for junior doctors to move to a “single lead employer” model, which should decrease the amount of bureaucracy they have to deal with.
Under the current system, junior doctors frequently move posts throughout their training, resulting in unnecessary duplication of paperwork and problems such as administration, incorrect pay, incorrect tax bills and difficulties in obtaining mortgages.
The new arrangement will see all junior doctors employed by one of four health boards determined by their region or national training programme.
Dr Collins said: “Having a single lead employer during a junior doctor’s training will help to simplify the process of moving post once it is fully implemented, reducing the paperwork involved and avoiding the mistakes that often get made. It will also make working as a doctor more accessible for all.