Overworked and tired junior doctors are putting lives at risk by falling asleep at the wheel on the way home from their night shifts, according to new research.
Four in 10 junior doctors have fallen asleep at the wheel following a night shift, according to a survey of 1,100 junior doctors for the BBC’s Inside Out South programme.
Campaign to reduce night shifts
The BBC programme highlighted an incident involving Brian Connelly’s daughter, Lauren.
She was driving home after her first ever night shift as a newly-qualified doctor when she crashed her car and died.
Mr Connelly said: “When she came off the night shift she phoned home and said ‘I’m leaving’, she had a chat with her mum and explained that the night shift had gone well.
“She was a bit concerned as it was a new experience of her being in charge and she was feeling quite pleased with herself. But nevertheless on the journey back home, she fell asleep.”
When Miss Connelly did not arrive home, Mr Connelly and his wife, went out in their car to look for her.
“Because we were expecting her home. And we set off to find her. And while we were driving, we could see the accident on the other side of the road.”
Mr Connelly has since been campaigning to reduce the number of night shifts junior doctors can work. In Scotland, he has succeeded in helping reduce that number from seven nights to five.
More deaths on the road
Another case was highlighted by the BBC show. Dr Ronak Patel, 33, a junior doctor from Gosport was returning from work after three consecutive night shifts when his car hit a lorry.
Dr Patel, who was heading home to his pregnant wife, died in the crash. An inquest in Bury St Edmunds said that he had probably fallen asleep at the wheel.
Dr Michael Farquhar, who teaches junior doctors about rest, said: “The teaching that we do is all about making sure we encourage our junior doctors, our nursing colleagues, everybody who’s working at night that it is not a sign of weakness at all to take rests and breaks when we’re working.
“There is very much a hero attitude in medicine and nursing that our own needs come second to the needs of the patient.”
Date Published: February 5, 2017
Author: Jonathan Brown