A new survey has shown that over 30% of junior doctors – including GP registrars – are rarely or never able to buy nutritious food while working secondary care night shifts.
The Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland (MDDUS) survey also showed that 77% of the 850 junior doctors surveyed said they have experienced burnout at work, with 39% of those pointing to a lack of nutritious food being a contributing factor.
Three in five respondents said that they worry about putting the patient’s safety at risk as a result of night shifts, exhaustion, and lack of nutritious food.
Doctors in hospitals reported finding empty vending machines or closed shops and canteens when they work evenings and nights.
The survey also found 60% of junior doctors said they would not recommend the healthcare profession to school leavers.
Responding to the survey results, MDDUS called for ‘simple solutions’, such as providing ‘round-the-clock’ access to nutritious food.
MDDUS chief medical officer Dr John Holden said: ‘A tired doctor is a doctor with increased risk who is more likely to make mistakes.’
He warned that young doctors working ‘throughout the night, hungry, and exhausted’ will have a negative effect on patients.
‘Good food should be a simple prerequisite for doctors going to work or, at least, having facilities available to make food – many tell us they don’t,’ he added.
Dr Billy Wilson, an anaesthetist who works in the north of England, said: ‘I have experienced times during a night shift when I’ve felt as hungry as it’s possible to be at work, but I have so much to do there’s no time to eat.’
‘Doctors’ responsibilities don’t change when they are working out of hours, so our need for food to eat and places to rest where we work don’t change either,’ he added.