The CQC has urged NHS trusts to comply with guidelines to allow doctors and nurses on night shifts to be able to take appropriate rest periods at night. This follows a recent death of a junior doctor who crashed his car after three consecutive night shifts.

Much of the recent industrial action taken by junior doctors over the new junior doctors’ contract was in relation to the fact that insufficient rest breaks are provided. The new contract involves the role of guardian of safe working hours which is designed to reassure junior doctors and employers that rotas and working conditions are safe for doctors and patients. The guardian will keep an eye on the work schedule review process and be a point of contact for concerns relating to working hours and breaks.

It is hoped that this new role will avoid a repeat of the incident in August 2015 involving trainee anaesthetist Dr Ronak Patel who “probably” fell asleep at the wheel of his car despite taking measures to try to stay awake as he drove home from work.

Royal College of Physicians’ guidance for their junior doctors, “Working the night shift”, sets out practical tips for dealing with long working hours in terms of preparation for night work, what to do during the shift, and what to do after the night shift to recover. It specifically sets out that junior doctors should take 20 – 45 minute naps to counteract fatigue.

However, it has been reported that Trusts are looking to take disciplinary action against employees who try to take a sleep break, even though sleeping facilities are provided.