Rammina Yassaie: Stop infantilising doctors and give them their rotas on time, or risk losing them

Delays in sharing rotas is a long standing issue, but one that risks forcing doctors out of the profession, writes Rammina Yassaie

During the covid-19 crisis, the NHS has stepped up to the plate. Many junior doctors, for example, accepted being redeployed to a different job, in a different place, within a different team, with no quibbles. Meanwhile training has largely been neglected and family lives upheaved. 

While I would expect no less from my fantastic colleagues at a time of national crisis I would hope that the relevant organisations would recognise this hard work and reciprocate with a change that has long been needed—sending doctors their rotas on time. 

Rota angst is a well known phenomenon amongst medics. The absence of a timely rota leads to anxiety about the organisation of things like childcare. It also leads to worries about being unable to attend important personal and professional events, such as weddings and conferences.

While there have been recent improvements to national guidance on rostering, the problem remains endemic in many hospital trusts.

As a result, many junior doctors have entered a state of learned helplessness—they believe they lack control over the scheduling of the next weeks to months of their lives. 

As someone who is ten years into my career as a doctor I still feel the dread every six months, waiting for my rota with little time to coordinate childcare with my medic partner. 

It has become even more difficult during the coronavirus pandemic because we are unable to call grandparents for support at short notice. As I approach my 34th birthday I feel utterly exhausted by the process and increasingly aware of how infantilising it is. 

While I am sure there are many people working exceptionally hard to ensure the timely release of rotas, they are battling systems that are fundamentally flawed. 

Recruitment and retention in medicine are already under great strain. Furthermore, the number of junior doctors going straight from foundation training to specialty training has recently been found to be at its lowest level yet

It is no wonder that staffing shortages are rife. Of the doctors that have left the profession or emigrated, many frequently have been found to cite rota scheduling as a key reason for leaving.

Receiving a rota in a timely manner is such a simple thing, but it has such a profound effect on morale. If we want to ensure that we can recruit and retain sufficient numbers of doctors for any further peak in infections or future pandemics, we need to make sure we get these simple things right.

Rammina Yassaie is a GP Trainee working in Yorkshire and has a particular interest in the wellbeing of healthcare staff. 

Twitter: @RamminaY

Competing interests: None declared