Fatigue and sleep deprivation

Find out about the BMA Fatigue and Facilities charter, the impact of fatigue on doctors and patients, and the factors increasing the risk of fatigue. You can also read guidance aimed at doctors and other clinical staff on how to manage the risks associated with fatigue.
Location: UK
Audience: All doctors
Updated: Friday 13 March 2020
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​Being a doctor typically involves high-intensity, time-pressured working patterns. These can lead to sleep deprivation and fatigue, effecting doctors' health, well-being and performance, their safety and that of their patients.


Fatigue and sleep deprivation briefing

This BMA briefing highlights why doctors are at risk of fatigue and the acute and long-term impacts this can have. It also presents a framework for how Government, organisations and doctors themselves can manage this risk.

Guidance for doctors and other clinical staff

The BMA has produced guidance for doctors and other clinical staff on how best to manage the risks of fatigue associated with current working patterns.

This includes:

  • information about the causes and risks of fatigue
  • ways to maximise rest and recovery
  • guidance on supporting good quality decision-making
  • advice on managing night shift working
  • ways your employer and the BMA can help you.

Managing the nightshift

Managing the 'night shift' video cover

Safety and fatigue contract requirements for junior doctors

Junior doctors, due to the rotational nature of work placements, are especially likely to face long commutes and may be based in areas with poor public transport services.

It is now a requirement within the 2016 contract, for employers to provide junior doctors with either a place to rest or alternative arrangements when you declare you are too tired to drive home.


Fatigue and facilities charter

Our fatigue and Facilities charter outlines simple steps that can be taken to improve facilities and reduce fatigue so you can safely, effectively and efficiently care for your patients. A little more than a year later, all trusts in England had signed up to the charter.

In recent years, there have been numerous examples of where doctors have driven home when too tired to do so, of substandard hospital accommodation and doctors being unable to take much needed breaks. There is also significant evidence that tiredness impairs good decision making, which in turn can lead to negative patient outcomes.

Trusts in England and Health boards in Wales are now taking measures to alleviate the problem, in the interests of patients, staff and employers. This is a view shared across the NHS with many organisations who are looking at interventions to improve doctor wellbeing.

Our charter outlines simple steps that can be taken to improve facilities and reduce fatigue, so you can safely, effectively and efficiently care for your patients.

Every hospital in England to benefit from funding

The Government has announced where it will invest £10 million for upgrading or installing rest areas or other facilities, which improve the working lives of junior doctors.

This investment represents a significant achievement for the BMA and is an early outcome of the 2018 contract review. The money will be spent in accordance with the Fatigue and Facilities charter and all proposals will be put forward and signed off by the local Junior Doctor forum.

Contact us

We urge LNC representatives to encourage Trusts to adopt as many of the measures contained in the BMA Fatigue and Facilities Charter as possible to improve rest and sleep facilities for doctors and staff.

Contact your LNC


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