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Can we change the culture around breaks in the NHS?

The culture of working without breaks is dangerous to doctors’ and patients’ wellbeing and only a cultural shift can change things, argues Heidi Edmundson. 

Heidi, Consultant for Emergency Medicine at Whittington Health NHS Trust, discusses in BMJ Opinion how it has become impossible to ignore the huge cost of burnout to both individual doctors and the medical workforce. Breaks are no longer being viewed as a luxury, but as an integral part of physician wellbeing, patient safety, and workforce sustainability. However exceptional reporting and the costs associated with recruitment and retention issues mean that they are becoming a financial issue as well. Heidi ran her own departmental “public health” campaign entitled “take a break” to see if she could change this culture. 

"I started this project with a desire to try and change culture and I have come to realize that changing the culture around taking breaks is really just the tip of the iceberg. What we really need is a huge cultural shift in our attitudes and behaviours towards staff wellness. This will require imagination, innovation, and investment at all levels."

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Source: BMJ Opinion, 28 June 2019


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