Professor Sir Mike Richards, chief inspector of hospitals for the Care Quality Commission, has called for NHS trusts to comply with guidelines on allowing nurses and doctors to rest at night, following the death of a junior doctor who died in a car accident after falling asleep at the wheel while driving home from a nightshift.
CQC Sleep Breaks
Despite the well-documented risks to the health of staff and the safety of those in their care, many employers, both within the NHS and in the social care sector, continue to threaten staff with disciplinary action if they’re found sleeping on duty and refuse to operate a system whereby staff can safely take rest breaks. Adequate rest periods during which staff are able to take planned sleep can improve concentration, reduce the number of drug errors and have significant effects to the quality and safety of care provided. Read on to find out why you should consider implementing sleep breaks within your own service and learn more about the benefits that this can bring to the care you provide.
CQC Sleep Breaks
The Royal College of Nursing has produced a guidance document, called ‘A shift in the right direction’, which provides an excellent starting point for considering good practice in relation to staff who work all types of shifts – particularly night shifts. The guidance includes examples of good practice and outlines the responsibilities that employers have to staff who work shifts and is available on their website.
4 Tips to Improve Your Night Staff’s Safety and Wakefulness
- Consult with your team. Start by discussing with your team any concerns they have and reviewing how effective their existing working practices are. In some cases, sleep breaks may already be taking place informally which, if not managed well, could lead to safety concerns. It is always better to have a system that is known about and agreed, than to drive a practice underground by ‘banning’ it.
- Agree on a safe system. Your staff will have a wealth of knowledge about how their shifts usually run and when their busy or quieter periods are likely to occur. By involving them in how rest breaks are allocated and, wherever possible, actually working overnight with them yourself, you will be able to agree on a plan to maximise safety and minimise disruption to the delivery of care.
- Consider facilities. Providing adequate facilities to nap during breaks is important if your system is to be effective. Ideally, a quiet room which offers privacy and the space to recline and rest should be available but remember that staff should still be contactable in case of an emergency and so should not be too isolated.
- Review regularly. Discuss break arrangements with your night workers at supervision and team meetings. This will give you the opportunity to listen to any concerns or reasons to adjust your plan, if necessary.