PATIENTS are still being put at risk by fatigue among junior doctors with one in five trainees in Scotland complaining that shift patterns are leaving them feeling short of sleep on a daily or weekly basis.

BMA Scotland said the strain increased the risk of young medics making mistakes and also put them in danger travelling to and from work.

The latest GMC survey found that the working patterns of 21 per cent of junior doctors in Scotland left them feeling fatigued on a daily or weekly basis. Only one in three (34 per cent) of junior doctors felt that they always got enough sleep.

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Of the 4,985 junior doctors in Scotland who responded to the survey, most - 58 per cent - said their workload was "about right", but 37 per cent said it was heavy or very heavy. One in ten said they were working beyond their rostered hours on a daily basis, while 38 per cent said this occurred at least once a week.

Of the 2,111 Scottish trainers who responded - the senior doctors who oversee junior medics - a quarter disagreed or strongly disagreed that there are enough staff to ensure that patients "are always treated by someone with an appropriate level of clinical experience".

It comes six years on from the death of Glasgow University medicine graduate, Dr Lauren Connelly, who was killed when her car veered off the M8 seven weeks into her first job as a junior doctor at Inverclyde Royal on August 3, 2011.

She had just finished her first 12-hour night shift at Inverclyde Royal Hospital in Greenock when she was involved in the fatal crash and her father, Brian Connelly, has previously spoken of this belief that she was suffering fatigue which built up over the previous month-and-a-half, including working 107 hours over a 12-day period. He said his daughter, 23, had completed four day shifts in a row and was starting a run of seven nights back-to-back when she was killed.

The tragedy contributed to shake-up in rostering including a ban on junior doctors in Scotland working seven night shifts in a row. However, BMA Scotland said the latest survey showed more still had to be done.

Its Scottish Junior Doctor Committee has proposed measures such as the introduction of mandatory 46-hour recovery periods after a run of nightshifts, facilities for junior doctors who feel unsafe to drive to sleep before driving home, and 24 hour access to hot food.

Chair of BMA Scotland’s Junior Doctors Committee, Dr Adam Collins, said: “The findings of this survey show that Junior Doctors are regularly sleep deprived and that work is needed to mitigate the effects of this fatigue, as well as making improvements so that Junior Doctors are properly rested.

“Fatigue can pose significant risks both to patients and to doctors themselves and it is essential that we do more to address this issue.

“Relatively simple changes would make a significant impact, improving both safety and the working lives of junior doctors.

“Scheduling shift patterns in a way that gives junior doctors a 46-hour recovery period when they are adjusting from night shifts to day shifts, ensuring there are rest facilities for doctors who are unsafe to drive, and access to hot food around the clock would make a big difference to junior doctors’ working lives.

“At a time when the NHS in Scotland is stretched like never before, measures that genuinely improve the working lives of junior doctors are more important than ever.”