Intended for healthcare professionals

Careers

On-call rooms should be available to lessen risks of driving after night shifts

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e3643 (Published 22 May 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e3643
  1. Helen Jaques, news reporter
  1. 1BMJ Careers
  1. hjaques{at}bmj.com

Junior doctors have demanded that hospitals reinstate free on-call rooms so that trainees can get some rest during or after night shifts, so as to reduce their risk of crashes when driving home at the end of a shift.

Tom Berry, chairman of the BMA’s Scottish junior doctors committee, told the association’s junior doctors conference that driving after a night shift, especially a long or busy shift, triples the chance of a crash.

The risk is particularly pronounced after a doctor’s first night shift, when they may have been awake for more than 20 hours, he added. The impairment in performance caused by a period of wakefulness this long is equivalent to a blood alcohol concentration well over the UK driving limit.

Steve Hajioff, chairman of the BMA’s representative body, confessed that he twice fell asleep behind the wheel of his car when working night shifts as a junior doctor but that luckily he woke before he had an accident.

On-call rooms where doctors can rest between their duties on night shifts or at the end of a shift could reduce the risks of driving at the end of a shift, but in many cases hospitals charge for use of such rooms, the conference heard.

Susannah Patey, a foundation year 2 doctor in Birmingham, told the conference that she had to pay £37 a time for a room with a reclining chair if she wanted to sleep after a night shift. “I think people who are trying to sleep before driving are not being allowed to by hospital trusts,” she said. “I don’t think that’s reasonable, and I don’t think that’s fair.”

Delegates at the conference passed a motion urging the BMA to campaign for free access to hospital accommodation for doctors who have completed a night shift.

Junior doctors also discussed the cost of commuting to work, given that trainees can with little notice be allocated to short term placements at distant locations. In many cases trainees have commitments, such as a mortgage or children, that mean it is not practical to rent near their placement and instead have to commute for more than an hour, said Fiona Stonley, a trainee in the West Midlands.

The costs of commuting increase the cost of living and the cost of training for junior doctors, said Abi Smith, a trainee at Great Western Hospital, Swindon.

Delegates agreed that no junior should be left out of pocket because of travel expenses necessitated by short term, pre-allocated rotations within a training scheme and urged the BMA to renew the fight for fair reimbursement for such expenses.

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