These hours lead to fatigue, which in turn can impair judgment and work performance. This can affect the quality of patient care, the wellbeing of doctors and the quality of the teaching environment in our public hospitals.
The last audit was conducted in 2006, with the results confirming that onerous and unsafe working hours were common and part of the job in our public hospital system. The 2006 survey showed that 62 per cent of hospital doctors fell into the significant and higher fatigue risk categories.
We have seen some improvement in the 2011 survey, with the number of hospital doctors in the significant and higher risk categories falling to 53 per cent. Despite these improvements, the extremes remain and in some cases have become worse. For example:
- in 2011, 21 per cent of doctors had no days free from work during the audit period;
- the longest recorded shift increased from 39 hours in 2006 to 43 hours in 2011;
- the maximum total number of hours worked during the audit week actually went up (from 113 in 2006 to 120 in 2011);
- doctors in the lower risk category are still working shifts of up to 19 hours;and
- the average of total hours worked in the 2011 audit week for all hospital doctors was 55.1 hours.
To support the improved management of the risks of fatigue, the AMA has produced a National Code of Practice - Hours of Work, Shiftwork and Rostering for Hospital Doctors, which provides guidelines on how to manage the risks of fatigue. Doctors can also use the AMA Fatigue Risk Assessment tool to assess their own risks.
Read the full report here
Read the AMA Media Release here.