Concerns raised over staff still being made to work overtime

The British Medical Association and Royal College of Nursing have reported that thousands of doctors and nursing staff say they feel under pressure from employers to work extra shifts, often unpaid.

Some doctors say they are already exhausted and fear that they will be pressured to do extra shifts without adequate rest to help reduce the huge backlog of patients needing treatment in NHS hospitals.

According to the latest BMA ‘tracker’ survey, over half of the doctors surveyed in the UK had worked extra hours (58.1 per cent), with around a third of them (28.5 per cent) reporting that these hours were unpaid. Additionally, nearly half (44.2 per cent) of the doctors who responded felt pressured by their employer to do extra hours, while over a third (36 per cent) had either skipped taking full breaks altogether or taken them on rare occasions. This has left staff exhausted with nearly 60 per cent of doctors reporting a higher than normal level of fatigue or exhaustion.

Such experiences are also echoed among registered nurses and nursing support workers as figures from the Royal College of Nursing’s survey of members’ experience of the pandemic. In July 2020, one third of nursing staff in all sectors reported they are working longer hours. Of these, 40 per cent of respondents are not being paid for the additional hours, with a further 18 per cent only sometimes being paid.

Meanwhile, the latest NHS England staff survey found that over 65 per cent of nurses and a third of nursing support workers worked extra hours that were unpaid. These figures also showed that around half of all nursing staff worked in the previous three months despite not feeling well enough to do so and that a quarter felt under pressure from their manager to work when unwell.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said: “To learn that an already depleted and now exhausted workforce feels forced into doing more and more hours, with many reporting higher levels of fatigue than ever, is extremely worrying. It is putting them at risk and their patients. Working ‘flat out’ without a change to rest and recuperate is simply unsustainable and unsafe.

“The results from the latest BMA’s Covid-19 tracker survey show that far too many colleagues across the NHS are experiencing unacceptable levels of exhaustion while being pressured to work extra shifts, and this needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency. Governments should be doing all they can to ensure staff have an opportunity to rest and reset – no one should feel pressured to take the NHS backlogs on a goodwill basis.”

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