BMA calls for urgent action on doctors’ sleep deprivation

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The BMA is calling on the Government and NHS employers to commit to “a comprehensive framework for addressing workplace fatigue.” A new BMA report on fatigue and sleep deprivation says the framework should initially focus on raising awareness of the risks associated with fatigue and should provide support to manage these risks.

The BMA says working patterns should be altered where possible to ensure compliance with health and safety requirements. It calls for rest periods to be built into normal working hours, and adequate recovery time of at least 11 hours must be scheduled between shifts. Furthermore, doctors should be allowed to take annual leave when they choose rather than at fixed times in the rota.

The report urges employers to implement a system to allow doctors who are not working under the 2016 junior doctors contract to have access to exception reporting where doctors can raise concerns about their working hours. 

BMA council chair Chaand Nagpaul said: "Given the enormous pressure that doctors and clinical staff working in the NHS are facing, more must be done to address the growing prevalence of fatigue and sleep deprivation owing to the increasing demands being placed on them." 

“This paper highlights the need for reform of working patterns to safeguard doctors and clinical staff against the impact of excessive workloads and the increasing complexity and number of consultations resulting from wider pressures on the NHS such as staff shortages, funding constraints and growing patient demand,” he said.