World Sleep Day: Growing support for Fight Fatigue campaign

World Sleep Day, today (15 March 2019), marks one year since the launch of the national Fight Fatigue campaign, a joint initiative of the Association of Anaesthetists, the Royal College of Anaesthetists and the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine.

The campaign aims to raise awareness of the impact of fatigue and shift work on the NHS workforce. Despite growing support for the campaign there is still much to be done and fatigue continues to impact the health and wellbeing of those working in the NHS.

The Fight Fatigue campaign messages were reinforced in the recent Health Education England (HEE) NHS Staff and Learners’ Mental Wellbeing Commission report which highlighted the importance of taking a break and emphasised the impact a lack of sleep can have on a healthcare professionals’ performance at work, particularly during night shifts. The report recommends the NHS provides on-call staff access to sleep rooms and recognises staff may need to sleep on site after an on-call shift before they are safe to travel home.

Speaking about the HEE report and importance of the campaign, Association of Anaesthetists president and consultant anaesthetist at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, Dr Kathleen Ferguson, said: “The HEE report clearly recognises that our NHS workforce continues to suffer the ill-effects of fatigue. We look forward to the working with organisations as they start to implement the report’s recommendations. The Fight Fatigue campaign has developed a number of resources that are aimed at educating NHS staff and improving rest facilities and we would be delighted to work with the relevant governments to make sure they are implemented in every hospital in the UK and Republic of Ireland.

“As momentum for our campaign grows, we now have support from organisations representing a wide range of specialties across the NHS, including the Royal College of Pathologists; the Royal College of Physicians; the British Medical Association; Emergency Medicine Trainees’ Association; the Royal College of Emergency Medicine; the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh and the College of Anaesthetists of Ireland.

“We urge all our colleagues in the NHS to back our campaign and ensure everyone understands the risks of fatigue and how to mitigate them.”

Explaining the importance of the campaign, Professor Andrew Goddard, president of the Royal College of Physicians, commented: "For too long, fatigue among doctors has been talked about as though it is simply part of the job, but this campaign says something different. It says that there are things that we can do and must do if we are to protect our staff, to help them do the best job they can for their patients, and to ensure that we continue to attract healthcare workers in the future.”

Ongoing work of the campaign includes encouraging NHS Trusts to become official ‘Fight Fatigue’ campaign backers by:

  • Accessing the fatigue awareness educational resources and ensure they are used as part of the induction programmes for all staff
  • Adopt the minimum standards for rest facilities, and follow the guidelines published by the Association of Anaesthetists, the Royal College of Anaesthetists and the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine
  • Promote positive attitudes towards rest across the workforce and help reduce the stigma attached to talking about fatigue by joining the #FightFatigue online campaign.

The Fight Fatigue campaign launched last year (on World Sleep Day 2018) in response to the tragic death of a trainee anaesthetist who died whilst driving home tired after a night shift. In addition, a national survey of over 2000 anaesthetic trainees published in the scientific journal Anaesthesia found:

  • Nearly three quarters of respondents reported fatigue had a negative effect on their physical health or psychological well-being
  • 84% had felt too tired to drive home safely after a night shift
  • Less than a third had access to a suitable rest facility
  • 57% had experienced an accident or near miss when driving home after a night shift.

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