Legally protected break times and shift lengths for healthcare professionals

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Many professions, including professional drivers and pilots, have legal limits on the hours they are allowed to work. This makes sense given that lives are in their hands - no-one wants a lorry driver falling asleep at the wheel!

Why then are healthcare professionals legally ok, and often expected/required to, work through their break times and beyond their shift end times? Shifts are already typically 12.5 hrs - far too long to work without a break!

This is unacceptable and leads to unsafe patient care. One midwife recently told me "I thought I was going to faint the other day!!". How can healthcare professionals provide safe care whilst working in these conditions?

Other midwives have told me that the “Best part of working in the NHS: enforced 5:2 diet. I’ve eaten 480 calories since I woke up at 5.40 this morning.”  This was sent at 20:54! Another said “Today is the start of my 4th week on delivery suite… I had a horrendous day last week where I had 5 patients… one of them had sepsis and another was on epidural so they should’ve been having 1:1 care, not 1:5! Staffing was so shit that I ended up staying 2.5hrs over my shift because I had no-one to hand over to and couldn’t just leave my 5 women. I’m not going to lie, I didn’t want to come back after that!”

When a person dies because of these impossible conditions, the midwife or other healthcare professional will be blamed - how can this make sense? Would you trust your healthcare professional to consistently make the best decisions and provide the best advice if you knew they had been working non-stop for over 10 hours? Patients and professionals must come together to change this!

We call for healthcare professional breaks times and shift lengths to be legally protected in the same way that other professions, such as pilots and drivers, are! After all - I wouldn't want my surgeon fainting as they operated on me!



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