Pickup L Starting the conversation around NHS staff fatigue and patient safety.

Pickup L, Fursland S, Alexander M, Broadbent S, Davis P, Whitehill K, Blanchard S Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch. Healthcare Investigation Fatigue Trigger Tool. Presented at Ergonomics and Human Factors. 2022;

Safe and effective staffing: Nursing against the odds. 2017;

Should tiredness be a trigger for action?

06 April 2023
Volume 32 · Issue 7

I have recently undertaken several return-to-work interviews with team members following short periods of sickness absence and the common thread running through all was fatigue and tiredness. I am not suggesting that this is something new, but a review of literature considering fatigue in NHS staff turned up several recent publications.

NHS Employers (2023) pointed out that 207 000 working days are lost in the UK annually due to insufficient sleep resulting in the annual cost for lost sleep in the UK running at £50 billion.

The Royal College of Nursing (2017) undertook a national survey of nurses and midwives. It asked about colleagues’ last shift or day worked in health or social care. More than 30 000 responses were received in 2 weeks. The findings described the impact that poor staffing has on both patient care and colleagues’ own wellbeing with 59% of respondents saying that they were not able to take sufficient breaks on their last shift. One colleague described how chronic staffing shortages result in a situation where ‘a lot of shifts are covered by the goodwill of staff who agree to stay on for a few more hours despite being tired and run down’. Inevitably, the colleague noted, ‘this leads to burnout’.

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