In a mess over break time
Posted on 21 November 2012 by BMA regional services
Regional services intervened when the juniors at one hospital had their two on-call rooms and obstetrics mess taken away.
They had not been able to discuss the matter or been given any notice.
The only information they had been given was via a note pinned to the notice board and an email, which said that some building works had had to be rescheduled.
This meant that there was suddenly no on-call facility for medical staff to rest at one of the busiest departments in the region. Senior management of the trust had authorised this because the doctors were on shift systems and did not have a right to sleeping quarters.
Regional services staff organised a meeting with all the affected doctors four days later, and arranged for a departmental manager to attend it.
In the meantime, we clarified the rota arrangements and sent an email to the medical director and other interested parties. This complained about the lack of notice and consultation, and suggested that the trust might want to champion best practice in the employment and training of juniors, and aim to be a destination of choice.
There were several training grade members at the meeting, plus two of their consultants, who added their support and expressed concerns. There were also several clinical staff who used the adjacent on-call room, which had also been demolished.
Regional services staff clarified the working patterns and it was agreed by all present that whatever individuals' contractual rights there was an ongoing need for rooms where clinical staff could rest and sleep. For example, rooms were needed by those who had completed heavy night shifts and needed a break before driving home.
We discussed the lost educational potential of losing the departmental mini mess with its computer connections — the main mess was too far away for this group of doctors to use it while on duty.
We called for the departmental manager to attend the meeting. We told her what the doctors needed and things went well because she recognised that valid points were being made.
We also pointed out what other space existed in the department, what it was being used for and how the mess and rest rooms might be reprovided. To back this up, we proposed an immediate inspection of the facility.
With some on-the-spot suggestions and negotiations we were able to identify a larger room for use as a day mess and two rooms that could be shared by all clinical staff in the department for rest and sleep.
We also identified where the furniture could come from. By the end of the afternoon the manager had sorted it out and the new mess facility and rest rooms were up and running.
Later we got an apology from the medical director for the actions that caused the crisis. A quick collection of the facts, an early meeting with interested parties, a willingness on both sides to focus on practical needs, and alternative proposals drawn from collected knowledge resolved the crisis quickly and reasonably.