Cookie policy notice

By continuing to use this site you agree to our cookies policy below:
Since 26 May 2011, the law now states that cookies on websites can ony be used with your specific consent. Cookies allow us to ensure that you enjoy the best browsing experience.

This site is intended for health professionals only

At the heart of general practice since 1960

Don't forget about the health and safety risks

It is crucial to think about the health and safety aspects of delivering an extended hours service, advises Dr John Canning

It is crucial to think about the health and safety aspects of delivering an extended hours service, advises Dr John Canning

The employer has a duty to ensure as safe a working environment as possible, and to reduce the risks for employees - whether in hours or out of hours.

When offering extended hours there are likely to be some additional risks to staff and GPs, and practices should assess these and reduce them.

Points to consider include:

Staffing Most surgeries that choose to run extended hours will have reduced staff on duty, whether it is a morning, evening or weekend surgery.

This poses risks for staff who may not have the full range of backup they would expect both for medical and other incidents.

There can never be a definitive answer for the number of staff a surgery should have on duty, but it is arguable that opening with fewer than two staff members exposes them to increased risks.

Whatever a practice decides to do, it is vital to carry out a formal risk assessment; document the details, act on the assessment and keep details of it for future reference.

Don't forget this is not a one-off and that a regular review is needed.

Emergencies Put an emergency plan in place and train staff to implement it.

In extended hours with fewer staff, it may be more difficult to manage your existing plan; you should revise it to manage with fewer reception staff, one GP and no nurses.

Violence Physical violence is relatively rare in practice, but it does happen; threatening behaviour is more common.

Both are unacceptable and will be more likely to occur during an evening surgery.

Be prepared, have a plan in place, train staff, and never hesitate to dial 999 for the police if there is any threat to personal safety, making it clear that people are at risk.

Transport You do not have to provide transport for staff working extended hours unless you choose to.

But some areas have poor public transport during evenings and weekends and it may be helpful both for their safety and to encourage staff to work unsocial hours.

If you do provide transport it may be a benefit in kind, and taxable; you must discuss this with your accountant or other tax adviser.

Dr John Canning is a GP in Middlesbrough, and chair of both the BMA's professional fees committee and its contracts and performance subcommittee

Dr John Canning advises GPs not to forget about the health and safety risks of extending their hours Dr John Canning advises GPs not to forget about the health and safety risks of extending their hours

Rate this article 

Click to rate

  • 1 star out of 5
  • 2 stars out of 5
  • 3 stars out of 5
  • 4 stars out of 5
  • 5 stars out of 5

0 out of 5 stars

Have your say