The BMA has welcomed measures to improve the working lives of junior doctors in Scotland, saying they will also help patient safety.
Under the new rules, junior doctors will have a mandatory recovery period of 46 hours after a run of night shifts – one of the major causes of fatigue in the medical workforce. This is due to be fully implemented in August 2019.
The NHS in Scotland will also move to a ‘lead employer’ for junior doctors, meaning they will have one employer for their entire training period even if they move to different health board areas, starting this August.
This will simplify life for junior doctors, who generally move post several times during their training periods, which creates difficulties such as tax-code problems and when trying to prove employment for mortgage applications.
The changes are the result of ongoing discussions between the BMA, Scottish Government and health boards on practical measures to improve the working lives of junior doctors and to improve patient care.
BMA Scotland junior doctors committee chair Adam Collins (pictured below) said the measures would make a tangible difference to the working lives of junior doctors.
‘Evidence shows that moving from night shifts to day shifts is one of the biggest causes of exhaustion we face in our working patterns. Fatigue is a risk to junior doctors and a risk to our patients, which is why securing a safer approach to rostering doctors has been my highest priority as chair.
‘Having a single lead employer during a junior doctor’s training will help to simplify the process of moving post once it is fully implemented, reducing the paperwork involved and avoiding the mistakes that often get made. It will also make working as a doctor more accessible for all.’
NHS Education for Scotland medical director Professor Stewart Irvine said: ‘The recent GMC review was very positive around medical education and the wider support we provide in Scotland.
‘We are committed to working with partners to improve the working lives of junior doctors while making sure that we carry out the necessary checks required to reassure the public.
‘These new employment arrangements are a very significant step forward – making Scotland an even more attractive place to live, train, work and develop a medical career.’
Health secretary Jeane Freeman said she wanted the NHS to be the best place for junior doctors to work and train and that improvements to working patterns would help achieve this.
‘This change means junior doctors will be able to focus on their training and work on safe, sustainable rotas that allow them to be fit for work and well rested,’ she said.
Dr Collins added: ‘Our discussions with the Scottish Government and NHS boards have made good progress and I hope that in due course we will see agreement on further improvements to the working lives of junior doctors emerge from them.’