Four in 10 junior doctors have fallen asleep at wheel

More than four in 10 junior doctors have fallen asleep at the wheel after driving home from a night shift, research shows.
Dr Ronak PatelDr Ronak Patel
Dr Ronak Patel

A poll of more than 1,100 junior doctors for the BBC Inside Out South programme found 41 per cent had nodded off on their way home.

Recent cases include Dr Ronak Patel, a junior doctor from Gosport who died in 2015 when his car collided with a lorry.

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The 33-year-old was heading home to his pregnant wife after doing three night shifts.

He died in a head-on collision and, according to evidence heard at an inquest in Bury St Edmunds, had probably fallen asleep.

He had been talking to his wife using a hands-free mobile phone shortly before the crash and the couple had been singing to help him stay awake, the inquest heard.

Friends of Dr Patel later helped raise £1,000 to get a defibrillator installed in his memory.

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Another junior doctor, Sam Jayaweera, who often works four night shifts in intensive care in a row, of 13 hours each, told the programme: “About five minutes away from home I was on one of the country roads and found myself on the opposite side of the road - I mean thank goodness there was nothing coming the other way.

“In fact, only just last year I was going to a night shift and I came across a car that (had) flipped in the road, it was an unlit country road and... it was another junior doctor coming back from their late shift.”

Dr Michael Farquhar, who teaches junior doctors about rest, said: “The teaching that we do is all about making sure we encourage our junior doctors, our nursing colleagues, everybody who’s working at night that it is not a sign of weakness at all to take rests and breaks when we’re working.

“There is very much a hero attitude in medicine and nursing that our own needs come second to the needs of the patient.”

Inside Out is on BBC1 South at 7.30pm on Monday and will be available to view via the iPlayer after broadcast.

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