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Four in ten junior doctors have fallen asleep at the wheel after night shift, poll reveals

BBC survey adds to concerns about driving after long shifts
Nurse asleep at the wheel

More than four in ten junior doctors have fallen asleep at the wheel after driving home from a night shift, new research shows.

A poll by BBC Ones Inside Out South found 41% of the 1,100 junior doctors surveyed had drifted off on the way home.

The poll findings follow previous warnings that nurses were risking their health by driving long distances home after long shifts.

During a debate at RCN Congress in 2016 about rising housing costs, members highlighted how nurses facing lengthy commutes were too tired at the end of shift to get home safely.

Importance of breaks

Commenting on the BBC poll, Dr Michael Farquhar, who trains doctors on the

More than four in ten junior doctors have fallen asleep at the wheel after driving home from a night shift, new research shows.


New survey echoes concerns about nurses driving long distances after shifts.
Picture: Neil O’Connor

A poll by BBC One’s Inside Out South found 41% of the 1,100 junior doctors surveyed had drifted off on the way home.

The poll findings follow previous warnings that nurses were risking their health by driving long distances home after long shifts.

During a debate at RCN Congress in 2016 about rising housing costs, members highlighted how nurses facing lengthy commutes were ‘too tired at the end of shift to get home safely’.

Importance of breaks

Commenting on the BBC poll, Dr Michael Farquhar, who trains doctors on the importance of rest, said: ‘The teaching that we do is about making sure we encourage our junior doctors, nursing colleagues, and everybody who is working at night, that it is not a sign of weakness 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.’

Final phone call

Inside Out South describes how one newly qualified doctor, Lauren Connelly, died when driving home after her first night shift at Inverclyde Royal Hospital in Greenock, Scotland.

Her father, Brian, 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.’

When she did not arrive home, Mr Connelly and his wife went out to look for her, only to discover her car had been involved in an accident.

Mr Connelly has since campaigned to improve safety, which has led to the number of night shifts that can be worked in a row in Scotland being cut from seven to five.

Similar case

In another case, junior doctor Ronak Patel from Gosport died after his car collided with a lorry after he had worked three night shifts in a row.

Evidence at an inquest suggested he had probably fallen asleep at the wheel.

Inside Out is on BBC One South at 7.30pm tonight


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