Surgeon calls for break rooms in hospital to tackle stress

Surgeons have called for the return of the hospital mess to give under-stress doctors a break and help improve patient safety.

Surgeons are calling for a break room to be introduced. Picture; PA
Surgeons are calling for a break room to be introduced. Picture; PA

The measure is among a series of recommendations made by the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (RCSEd) aimed at delivering better and safer care in the NHS.

The college surveyed more than 500 consultants and trainees across the UK and found poor communication, high stress levels, limited training opportunities, IT issues and a lack of team structure are impacting on morale.

The report said it is essential doctors have a place to rest but facilities are “sadly lacking” in most UK hospitals.

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“It is an indictment of our NHS hospitals that facilities for those persons working on the front line, especially out of hours, remain so poor,” it said.

“This study has shown that there remains inadequate access to hot food and appropriate facilities where staff can relax during their breaks (if they are fortunate enough to get them) without meeting patients or their relatives.

“Many would regard such facilities as a fundamental requirement. Those who do not work inside the profession would be surprised that these basic amenities do not exist.”

The college said the provision of such a space is “far from a luxury or perk”, adding: “An exhausted, hungry doctor is more likely to make a mistake. These simple measures will help medical staff deliver better care and ensure less mistakes are made.”

The report also recommends a return to the traditional surgical team structure, increased training in daylight hours, an overhaul of rotas and a move away from the title “junior” doctors.

Professor Michael Lavelle-Jones, RCSEd president and consultant general and colorectal surgeon, said: “While the issues facing the NHS are broad and complex, we should not lose sight of the fact that strain within the system ultimately has an impact upon individual lives.

“As a college, we have been deeply saddened and concerned in recent years by the deaths of several doctors in training in circumstances believed to be associated with work-based stress or tiredness.

“This report offers a snapshot into what a cross-section of UK healthcare profession thinks is lacking from their working environment. It is the college’s responsibility to represent the views and offer potential solutions to the wider profession and to the government.”

The report’s co-authors, Simon Paterson-Brown and Richard McGregor, added: “With the immense financial strain and staffing problems facing the NHS it is essential we look seriously at how we can improve the whole working environment for all those delivering front line surgical care.

“This is a team effort and action needs to involve everyone in the team. While lack of additional resources is clearly one of the problems, it is also about much better use of current resources and changing how we do things to become more efficient and more productive.”