JUNIOR doctors in Scotland are to be given a mandatory 46-hour recovery period after a run of night shifts before they can return to work.
The move, which will take effect by August 2019, is a result of ongoing discussions between the British Medical Association (BMA), Scottish Government and NHS boards on practical measures to boost the safety of doctors and patients and improve the NHS working environment in Scotland.
Fatigue has been linked to the deaths of a number of junior doctors in recent years. An inquest into the 2015 death of Suffolk doctor Ronak Patel found he had crashed his car after falling asleep at the wheel while driving home from a third consecutive nightshift.
Chair of BMA Scotland’s Junior Doctors Committee Dr Adam Collins said the recovery period would make a “tangible difference” to the working lives of trainees.
He said: "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".
The move was also welcomed by the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh’s trainees’ committee. It said: "Fatigue continues to convey a significant risk of harm to junior doctors impacting on both professional and personal aspects of their lives. We welcome this change and hope that it is implemented appropriately to enhance junior doctors working lives by both reducing fatigue and promoting training."
In addition to the recovery period, there are also plans to move to a "single lead employer" model for junior doctors in Scotland which means they will all be employed by one of four health boards. This is intended to increase efficiency when moving between posts, cutting out unnecessary duplication of paperwork and administration and eliminating disruption to pay and tax bills.