My name is Brian Connelly. I’m 67 and retired. I don’t have any particular expertise in blogging but I do have a story to tell. I would also like you to support my campaign to make junior doctors’ working hours safe.
My daughter Lauren began work as a junior doctor in August 2011 at Inverclyde Royal Hospital in Greenock. She died in a road traffic accident on Saturday 17th September, 10 days before her 24th birthday, driving home after a 12-hour nightshift. After conducting their investigations, police told us they believed she may have fallen asleep while driving home. Thankfully, no-one else was involved or injured in the accident.
During her short career as a junior doctor, Lauren had become increasingly tired. Her shift rota contained periods when she worked for 10 and 12 days in succession, working in excess of 100 hours each time. This without a weekend or full day rest between shifts. Before starting nightshift on Friday, she had already worked Monday to Thursday dayshifts, 9 to 5. She was scheduled to work 7 continuous nightshifts and would have worked 117.5 hours on 12 days without a full day’s break had she completed this run of shifts.
I cannot prove it but I firmly believe that a contributory factor towards her death was fatigue caused by the hours she worked as a junior doctor.
I started to investigate further into junior doctors’ working hours and soon discovered that Lauren’s experience was shared by other junior doctors, that the hours they work cause too many to experience tiredness when at work and puts their safety and their patients in danger. Governments and the NHS in Scotland and the rest of the UK know this but have not taken effective preventative measures to eliminate the chronic fatigue many medics suffer from. The 1998 Working Time Directive, a health and safety law, passed to protect workers by limiting the hours they are permitted to work to 48 for each 7 days, has been rendered ineffective by statistical manipulation and has ignored the reality of the actual hours junior doctors work and the fatigue the legislation should protect them from.
I decided to campaign to reduce the number of hours and the number of consecutive days which junior doctors work. The changes I’ve argued for are as follows:-
- Junior doctors should not work more than 48 hours in any 5-day period
- Working periods should be followed by 2 days off
- Actual working hours should be recorded.
Junior doctors are not supermen or superwomen despite the heroic efforts we ask of them and they actually perform. They are as susceptible to the effects of fatigue as the next person. There is no good reason why they should have to work the excessive number of hours they do or to experience the fatigue which results.
Health care in Scotland is a devolved matter and is the responsibility of the Scottish Government so I’ve met with Alex Salmond, when he was First Minister, and Cabinet Secretaries responsible for Health and have argued my case for reform. To their credit, they have made some improvements and have given their commitment to introduce others. I will continue to exert as much pressure as I can until the required changes are made.
The problem of tired and overworked doctors is not confined to Scotland, it’s UK-wide. I’m determined to achieve my objectives and ask that everyone who reads this to join my campaign. Write to MP, your MSP in Scotland, Assembly Member in Wales, and MLA in Northern Ireland and put pressure on them to make junior doctors’ working hours safe.
We must not allow Lauren’s experience to be repeated. We must not reward the commitment and dedication of our junior doctors with exhaustion. We must take better care of those who work so hard to take care of us.
We must end the national scandal of overworked and chronically fatigued junior doctors – NOW!
If you support my campaign, please raise this issue with your MP/MSP/Assembly Member/MLA. You can use the attached template letter to write, or use its contents in an email.
You can find their contact details here: www.theyworkforyou.com
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