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Feeling Overworked? Know your rights before things go wrong!


Dr X, a Senior House Officer (SHO) in Accident and Emergency medicine approached MDS after receiving a GMC referral letter from a previous Trust that he worked as a locum at, after his colleagues complained that during his last shift he appeared to be falling asleep whilst he was with patients and appeared to be intoxicated. The matter was immediately referred to an Interim Orders Tribunal (IOT) hearing.


MDS represented Dr X at his IOT hearing and as part of the preparation for his case, it was established that Dr X had worked 8-night shifts in a row from 9pm to 8am. The period of his locum shifts also fell within a religious festival where Dr X was fasting for an extensive period. It was evident that Dr X was not only exhausted prior to his last shift, but he felt that he could not cancel the shift at short notice as this may put patients at risk as the Trust was already short staffed within this particular department.  There was no evidence that Dr X was intoxicated as alleged.

MDS assisted Dr X in drafting a clear and accurate witness statement with reference to previous positive patient/colleague feedback and his reflection on the matter. MDS made submissions in relation to Dr X’s position to the IOT and outlined concerns with the Trust potentially acting in breach of the Working Time Regulations (WTR).


As a result, the IOT found that Dr X did not present any risk to the public, demonstrated significant insight and reflection and was therefore free to continue practicing unrestricted.


  • There are often times where Doctors may feel tired and overworked and often this forms part and parcel of the nature of the medical profession. However, it is always important to identify and be wary of any time you feel that you may not be in a position to conduct clinical work safely. This may be due to lengthy shifts, a lack of rest or personal issues. Whatever the situation, if you feel that you are genuinely unsafe to work and may put your patients at risk then we would advise you to notify your line manager/employer at the earliest opportunity.
  • Under the Working Time Directive, doctors are restricted to working a maximum of 48 hours per week on average over a six-month period, unless they voluntarily opt-out in which case they can work up to 56 hours per week on average.
  • There are even more restrictions on Doctors who are working nightshifts and you are unable to opt out of WTR during such shifts.
  • The onus is on the Doctor as well as the employer to be wary of the WTR and to ensure that these are not breached.
  • If you require any specific advice in relation to the WTR or any patient safety concerns then please so not hesitate to contact MDS.