GMC issues statement on refusing unsafe rotas

  • Date: 25 April 2016

DOCTORS asked to cover rota gaps should carefully consider their own health and welfare and the impact on their practice if they are exhausted, says the GMC.

The regulator recently released a statement on "refusing unsafe rotas" following a number of queries via social media on the issue.

The GMC states: "If doctors feel under pressure to cover a gap, they should carefully consider their own health and welfare and the impact on their practice if they are exhausted. They need also to consider the risks to patients from any refusal to cover a shift, and wherever possible work collaboratively with colleagues to find a solution. We recognise the current pressures in the service and understand that doctors may find themselves in difficult positions.

"Individual circumstances will vary, but if a doctor follows GMC guidance, they will be in a good position to justify their actions if challenged and should not face sanctions."

The statement further advises that doctors are accountable for their own professional practice and must be prepared to justify decisions and actions by keeping adequate records of how they have handled any safety concerns. The GMC requires organisations to design rotas that ensure trainees have appropriate clinical supervision and minimise the adverse effects of fatigue and workload. Should a doctor think that "patient safety, dignity or comfort" is seriously compromised because of unsafe rota design they must raise concerns in line with GMC guidance and their workplace policy, keeping a record of steps that they have taken.

The GMC website features a decision-making tool to help doctors know what to do if they have a concern about patient safety.

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.

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