‘I was so exhausted after my 80-hour working week that I fell asleep driving home from work’ - says King’s Mill junior doctor

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A junior doctor based at King’s Mill Hospital has described how she was so exhausted by excessive working hours that she fell asleep in her car on the way home from work.

Dr Isabel Pereira (pictured second left) said junior doctors at hospitals around the country regularly work 80 hours per week to keep medical services running smoothly.

She made the claims during the first of three planned walkouts over pay and new working conditions today (January 12), which involved more than 50,000 junior doctors in England.

She said: “The whole of the NHS is built on the goodwill of junior doctors such as myself. We are contracted to work for 48 hours per week but we regularly work as many as 80. We don’t get paid for the extra, it is all good will.

“I spend most of my life in hospital - probably about 90 per cent of it, with the rest with my family - and even then I’m preparing for exams or having to travel to London to attend conferences.

“If these changes are brought in it will make things a lot worse, with doctors having to work over seven days and we wouldn’t be able to have any sort of life outside of medicine.

“Working more than 80 hours per week, you are going to be extremely tired and you are going to make mistakes and not make the right decisions for the patients.

“A lot of us have to drive a long way to get to work and that also means we will be exhausted driving home, putting us at risk of having an accident and putting other people at risk as well.

“I recently fell asleep in my car behind the wheel as I was driving home from a shift.

“These plans are not safe for patients and they are not fair for us.”

The British Medical Association (BMA) is concerned about pay for weekend working, career progression and safeguards to protect doctors from being over-worked.

The stoppage went ahead despite a last-minute plea from Prime Minister David Cameron, after talks between the BMA and the Government through arbitration service ACAS failed to reach an agreement - after a planned strike was suspended last year.

BMA leader Dr Mark Porter said: “We sincerely regret the disruption that industrial action will cause, but junior doctors have been left with no option.”

There are more than 55,000 junior doctors in England - covering those who have just graduated from medical school through to those with more than a decade of experience.

During this strike, junior doctors assigned to emergency roles have turned in for work, with another stoppage planned for January 26 and a full walkout set to take place on February 10”

The trust currently employs around 200 junior doctors, with all but 28 - who are working in A&E throughout the strike day - manning the picket lines.

A spokesman for Sherwood Forest Hospitals BHS Trust, which runs King’s Mill, said all emergency care was being covered but significant disruption to other medical services was expected.

He said: “Emergency services at King’s Mill Hospital are anticipated to run as normal during the national day of action by junior doctors.

“The trust has tried and tested plans in place at the hospitals to deal with a range of disruptions, including industrial action.

“Patients in need of life-threatening emergency care will continue to receive the treatment they need, when they need it.

“However, those in less urgent need of care may experience longer waiting times than normal. The trust is asking those people who do not need life threatening care to avoid using our A&E during industrial action.”

However, booked appointments and admissions were likely to be seriously affected.

The trust asked members of the public due to attend an appointment on January 12 to turn up at the hospital, unless they had been notified beforehand.