Intended for healthcare professionals


“Going the extra mile” endangers doctors, patients, and NHS

BMJ 2017; 358 doi: (Published 26 July 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;358:j3547
  1. Tom Moberly, UK editor, The BMJ
  1. tmoberly{at}

Jan Wise, BMA medicolegal committee chair, tells Tom Moberly that the culture of doctors stretching themselves to work beyond their shifts and cover rota gaps has to end

Doctors who “go the extra mile” are exposing themselves to health problems and an increased risk of facing clinical negligence charges, Jan Wise, the head of the BMA’s medicolegal committee, says.

Speaking to The BMJ, Wise warns that doctors’ willingness to work beyond their contracted hours is affecting their own health. “People are burning out,” he says.

“You try to cover colleagues being away, and management don’t replace them, then people go off on long term sick,” he explains. “Doctors are putting their health at risk, and if a doctor’s health is at risk, patients’ health is at risk. They are not able to do what they are being paid to do, and they are not doing it as well as they could be doing it.”

Doctors who undertake work that is outside their contract of employment are also exposing themselves to medicolegal risks, he points out. “If the work is not resourced and it’s not rewarded, the safeguards that prevent …

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