One in three junior doctors go hungry at work and say their struggle to access nutritious food while on shift is putting patients at risk.
A UK-wide investigation by the doctor’s defence organisation MDDUS found that 32 per cent of doctors aged between 25 and 34 are rarely or never able to buy nutritious meals or snacks during working hours.
Overall, three in four (77 per cent) of junior doctors said they have experienced burnout at work, with 39 per cent saying lack of access to good food at work was a key contributing factor.
Two thirds (66 per cent) reported that they fear patient safety is at risk when they work while hungry and tired.
Chris Kenny, the Chief Executive of MDDUS, said: “We know that consistent access to basics such as hot meals can substantially reduce workplace stress – Professor Sir Gregor Smith, the Chief Medical Officer for Scotland, has said as much.
“That’s why I’ve written to Prof Sir Gregor, and his counterparts across the UK, urging them to prioritise working with policymakers to make urgent and sustainable improvements to NHS staff experience.
“Doing this will remove a barrier to doctors providing consistent care and support to their patients.”
MDDUS looked at the experiences of trainee doctors working in hospitals and GP practices.
The findings show that lack of access to good food at work – especially during long night shifts - is a major factor contributing to doctor burnout.
One in six (16 per cent) said they are considering leaving the profession due to a lack of access to nutritious food at work. Other reasons cited by respondents were workload, mental health and wellbeing, staff shortages and long working hours.
When asked what mood they felt most frequently at work, ‘tired and anxious’ were the most common answers. More than a third (35 per cent) of junior doctors said they did not have a safe, comfortable place to rest during their break.
As a result, 60 per cent said they would not recommend a healthcare career to a school leaver.
John Holden, Chief Medical Officer at MDDUS, said: “Junior doctors already carry a heavy mental load due to working long hours in stressful environments - they shouldn’t have to worry about when they are going to have their next meal.
“Not eating a healthy balanced diet can lead to tiredness - impacting concentration levels and decision-making. Nutritious food and a safe place to rest are basic requirements which enable doctors to deliver safe patient care.
"Doctors work round-the-clock delivering a 24-hour healthcare service. The provision of food must reflect that and go beyond 9-5 office hours.”
Dr Billy Wilson, 34, anaesthetist who works in the north of England, said: “I have experienced times during a night shift when I’ve felt as hungry as it’s possible to be at work, but I have so much to do there’s no time to eat.
“Doctors’ responsibilities don’t change when they are working out of hours, so our need for food to eat and places to rest where we work don’t change either.”
The Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland (MDDUS) is a mutual organisation that protects the professional interests of more than 54,000 doctors and dentists across the United Kingdom, offering access to indemnity, support and legal advice.
For further information please contact Lisa Walker, communications manager, on email@example.com or 07976 886552.
This page was correct at the time of publication. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.