The BMA and NHS Employers have produced joint guidance to promote better rota design and roster management.
Good Rostering Guidance will be disseminated to trusts and promoted by NHS Employers.
It aims to tackle problems around LTFT (less than full-time) trainees, non-resident on-call, managing leave, designing rosters and the management and review of live rosters.
The guidance includes a requirement that any significant changes to a live roster should be done with six weeks’ notice to the doctors affected and that existing approved leave requests should be honoured.
It also includes clarification of the contractual rule that no doctor should work more than 72 hours in any seven-day period – in that it should not be measured across seven calendar days, midnight to midnight, but across any 168-hour period.
BMA junior doctors committee chair Jeeves Wijesuriya said: ‘We have worked collaboratively with NHS Employers to produce comprehensive and positive guidance on good rostering as we committed to do at our talks with ACAS back in 2016.
‘This will ensure employers honour the spirit and the letter of the safeguards in the 2016 contract. This guidance requires them to take steps to minimise fatigue, value LTFT and [non-resident on-call] doctors, and make use of new, more effective rostering technology.’
Many LTFT doctors are juggling complex childcare and caring arrangements. The BMA said it hopes this guidance would lead to better planning and practice and give trainees more control over shift patterns.
The guidance also includes a requirement that every effort should be made to provide set working-day patterns for LTFT trainees who request them, and that any proposed changes to set working days take into account the notice period required to change care-provider arrangements.
It also says rotas should be designed and managed collaboratively between employers and doctors working the rota, and that doctors responsible for this should be allocated sufficient time to do so.
On top of that the guidance suggests a doctor can only be required to undertake additional duties in the event of unforeseen staff sickness if the employer has had less than 48 hours’ notice of the issue and that approved study leave for courses that take place on non-working days should be compensated by time off in lieu.