The Scottish government has committed to ending the practice of rostering junior doctors for seven full night shifts in a row.
There is a growing body of evidence to demonstrate the dangers of shift working patterns on individual doctors’ performance and more importantly on patient safety.
I am therefore pleased that the Scottish government has set a deadline to end the practice of junior doctors working seven full night shifts in a row by February next year.
This has been the result of successful collaboration between NHS Boards, Scottish government and the BMA. It proves that when politicians and management listen to those at the frontline of NHS services, we can work together to make a dramatic difference to the working lives of doctors and improve patient care.
Although this is welcome progress, many junior doctors still work a combination of both day and night shifts which, for some means they can be working up to 90 hours a week.
These rotas may be compliant to the letter of the European Working Time Directive, which aimed to reduce working hours, but they are not in the spirit of the legislation.
It will be a challenge for NHS Employers and the Scottish government to achieve the target to end long stretches of day shifts. I hope they will continue to work with us to address arduous shift working which can leave junior doctors exhausted whilst at the same time providing a high quality learning environment for doctors in training.
If we achieve this, we will be closer to addressing the current problems attracting and retaining junior doctors in Scotland.
It is also a positive step that the Scottish government wants to work with us to produce best practice guidance on the monitoring process of junior doctors’ hours.
By streamlining and simplifying the process, junior doctors can be assured that wherever they are working, the same practices will apply across Scotland, offering consistency and removing any barriers to participating in the monitoring process.