Scottish Conservatives call for sleep pods to help NHS staff

A 'holistic' approach to the health and wellbeing of NHS staff is needed, says a Tory MSP. Picture: John Devlin

Sleep pods should be installed in Scotland’s hopsitals as part of a “more holistic” approach to NHS staff wellbeing, the Scottish Conservatives have suggested.

Health spokesperson Miles Briggs made the plea and referenced the death of junior doctor Lauren Connelly, killed in a car accident as she drove home after a night shift in 2011.

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Mr Briggs said: “Sometimes in politics there are cases that make you stop and think about how we need to collectively do something to bring about a change.”

Installing sleep pods in hospitals would allow tired staff to rest before having to get behind the wheel, he argued.

Mr Briggs said: “Lauren was killed after her car veered off the M8 motorway as she drove home from a 12-hour night shift at Inverclyde Royal Hospital in Greenock.

“Dr Connolly, from East Kilbride, had been working just seven weeks in her medical training at that time.

“It tragically highlighted the fears over long working hours and fatigue faced by so many who work in our NHS, with staff often frequently working exhausting 100 hour weeks and shift patterns of 12 consecutive days.”

He added: “People working in our NHS are superheroes in many people’s eyes but they are not superhuman.”

The Conservative MSP stressed there was a “need to understand the severe pressures that NHS staff are under and how this negatively impacts on their own health and wellbeing”.

His calls were backed by other opposition MSPs, including the Scottish Labour health spokeswoman Monica Lennon, who said that her party would “always support our health and social care staff to get the working conditions they deserve and the work-life balance that they need”.

Scottish Green MSP Alison Johnston said: “It’s clear that workforce pressures are severely impacting the wellbeing of health and social care workers.

“That’s the message that’s coming from those on the frontline.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton stated: “Although sometimes we attack government policy and sometimes the governance of our health boards, we never ever attack the work of our frontline staff – they are heroes of our country.

“There just aren’t enough of them, there is a workforce crisis.”

Health secretary Jeane Freeman said she would be “happy” to order a review of the support available for NHS staff, as has been suggested by the Scottish Conservatives.

And while she said that the NHS workforce in Scotland was at a record high, she added that Brexit posed a “threat” to this.

“Free movement is vital for us to continue to attract dedicated professionals to help deliver these services,” Ms Freeman told Holyrood.

But Mr Briggs insisted: “After 12 years in charge of our Scottish NHS, SNP ministers need to accept they have presided over a workforce crisis which is impacting on the wellbeing of NHS staff today.”