Survey reveals extent and impact of fatigue on hospital consultants as politicians and healthcare bodies back national campaign | Association of Anaesthetists
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Survey reveals extent and impact of fatigue on hospital consultants as politicians and healthcare bodies back national campaign

Survey reveals extent and impact of fatigue on hospital consultants as politicians and healthcare bodies back national campaign 

Tuesday 3 September 2019

Politicians, healthcare bodies and medical royal colleges from across the UK are backing the national Fight Fatigue Campaign to help raise awareness of the impact of fatigue and shift work on our NHS workforce. Despite growing support for the campaign there is still much to be done, as demonstrated by survey results published today (3 September 2019) which reveals the scale and impact of out-of- hours working on consultant anaesthetists and intensivists. The vast majority of respondents reported work-related fatigue impacting on all areas of life and more than 1 in 10 admitted to having had a car accident or near miss when commuting whilst fatigued in their consultant career, and many more as a junior doctor.

Seven medical Royal Colleges have joined eleven healthcare organisations and a range of politicians from throughout the UK (alongside official backing by the Labour, Scottish Conservatives and Scottish Green parties) in making a commitment to promoting positive attitudes towards rest and wellbeing across the NHS workforce to help reduce the stigma attached to talking about fatigue.

Today’s survey findings, published in the journal Anaesthesia, highlight the extent and impact of fatigue amongst the 3,847 consultants in anaesthesia and paediatric intensive care medicine in the UK and Ireland who responded to the survey. The findings follow a 2017 survey of over 2,000 anaesthetic trainees that revealed 57% had experienced an accident or near miss when driving home after a night shift. The BMA has published its Fatigue and Facilities Charter and the Government has recently announced an allocation of £30,000 per NHS Trust in England to spend on rest facilities, but today’s survey findings demonstrate that more needs to be done to change behaviours and attitudes toward managing fatigue in the workplace.

Commenting on today’s survey findings, Dr Emma Plunkett, fatigue project group lead and consultant anaesthetist, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, said: “The impact of fatigue on our NHS workforce continues to be a major area of concern. Research tells us that sleep is crucial to our health and wellbeing and a lack of sleep in healthcare staff not only affects the professional but will also have an impact on their patients.

“This new survey clearly demonstrates that our senior doctors are simply not getting the rest and sleep they need and much of this is caused by their working pattern and lack of rest facilities at work.

“Our ongoing Fight Fatigue Campaign seeks to change attitudes across the NHS to ensure everyone understands the risks of fatigue and how to mitigate them. We hope that by collectively taking responsibility for making changes to working practice, we can improve working conditions for staff which will in turn benefit patient care.”

In summary, the survey found that: 

  • 91% of consultant doctors who responded experience work-related fatigue and 50% of them reported this had a moderate or severe impact on health, wellbeing, work and home life. 
  • 45% of respondents admitted to either having a car accident or near miss when commuting whilst fatigued, with 1 in 10 of these as a consultant. 
  • Only a third (34%) said they have access to a private rest facility when on-call. 
  • 84% of respondents contribute to a night on-call rota (including weekends) and 37% also work regular weekend days. 
  • For about one third (32%) the longest period of on-call duty is 48-72 hours and 32% are on call every 8th day or more frequently. 
  • When on-call, about half (52%) of consultants leave work after 10pm or are resident overnight; 55% receive 2 or more phone calls after leaving and just under half (48%) reported taking 30 minutes or more to fall back to sleep after a phone call. 
  • Most respondents (62%) did not feel supported by their organisation to maintain their health and wellbeing. 
  • In addition, only 15% always achieve 11 hours rest between finishing one shift and starting the next (the European Working Time Directive requires all doctors to have 11 hours of rest between clinical duties).

-ends-

Read the full survey findings

Notes for editors:

For media enquiries, case studies, and interview opportunities, please contact:

Amelia Lyons, press officer, Association of Anaesthetists, on: 07989 748 477 or email: press@anaesthetists.org

For enquiries about the campaign please contact:

Jenny Gowen, Advocacy and Campaigns Manager, Association of Anaesthetists on: 020 7631 8842 or email jennygowen@anaesthetists.org

About the Fight Fatigue campaign 

The #FightFatigue campaign is a joint initiative of the Association of Anaesthetists, Royal College of Anaesthetists (RCoA) and the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine (FICM). Since its launch in 2018, Numerous organisations and MPs have pledged their support. More information about the campaign be found at: www.anaesthetists.org/FightFatigue   

About the new survey

  • An online survey was conducted of consultant members of the Association of Anaesthetists, the Royal College of Anaesthetists, The Association of Paediatric Anaesthetists (www.apagbi.org.uk) and the Paediatric Intensive Care Society (www.picsociety.uk). Questions addressed out-of-hours work and the causes and effects of work-related fatigue.
  • The survey was sent to 8,437 consultants, with a response rate of 46%. Responses were from 324 hospitals (94% of UK and Irish hospitals).
  • The full survey findings are published in the journal Anaesthesia and are available here: https://doi.org/10.1111/anae.14819

About the Association of Anaesthetists  

As the professional membership organisation for over 11,000 anaesthetists in the UK, Republic of Ireland and internationally, the Association of Anaesthetists promotes patient care and safety, and advances anaesthesia through education, publications, research and international work. The Association maintains an active programme of support for anaesthesia worldwide, especially in low- and middle-income countries. Its motto in somno securitas (‘Safe in Sleep’) encapsulates the major focus of the Association: safety in anaesthesia. www.anaesthetists.org

About the Royal College of Anaesthetists (RCoA)

The Royal College of Anaesthetists is the professional body responsible for the specialty throughout the UK, and ensures the quality of patient care through the maintenance of standards in anaesthesia, critical care and pain medicine. www.rcoa.ac.uk 

About the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine (FICM) 

The Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine is the professional body responsible for the training, assessment, practice and continuing professional development of Intensive Care Medicine doctors and practitioners in the UK. www.ficm.ac.uk

Campaign Backers

To see the full list of organisations and individuals that are backing the campaign, click here


1. Anaesthesia: A national survey of the effects of fatigue on trainees in anaesthesia in the UK (Representing 59% of all trainee anaesthetists and 100% of all NHS Trusts) http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/anae.13965/full