NHS trusts putting safety of pregnant doctors at risk


Pregnant doctors: health and safety risks in the real world BMJ Careers pp 168-9

Some NHS trusts are exploiting pregnant junior doctors at the expense of health and safety, according to a disturbing article in this week's BMJ Careers.

It reveals how some pregnant doctors are expected to work excessive hours and are often exposed to violent or aggressive patients. It also uncovers major discrepancies in the way trusts apply guidelines to protect the rights of pregnant women in the workplace.

One doctor in psychiatry describes how she was expected to work extended nights on call, covering forensic and challenging behaviour units, well into her pregnancy. When she challenged the trust on the safety issue of a pregnant woman attending potentially violent patients, she met with resistance, delay, and little support.

Meanwhile, at the same trust, psychiatric nurses are removed from clinical duties and night shifts as soon as they inform the trust of their pregnancy.

This situation has resulted in several alarming incidents concerning pregnant junior doctors. One was attacked while attending a patient on a locked ward, while another was left with no back up when interviewing a disturbed patient.

With more women entering the medical profession, pregnant doctors will become more common, says the author. Guidelines that address the health and safety of pregnant workers are being inconsistently applied across the health professions.

Information needs to be distributed better, and trusts must prepare alternative work arrangements to accommodate the health and safety needs of their staff, she concludes.

Clearly something needs to be done about this now before a working pregnant doctor and her unborn child are seriously harmed.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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