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NHS Hospitals Bring in Sleep Pods to Help Tired Staff Take a Break

Discussion in 'Doctors Cafe' started by Hadeel Abdelkariem, Feb 6, 2020.

  1. Hadeel Abdelkariem

    Hadeel Abdelkariem Golden Member

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    Dr Tina Cardoza, a senior clinical fellow, in the A&E staff room at New Cross hospital in Wolverhampton. Photograph: Fabio de Paola/The Guardian

    Help is arriving for overworked NHS staff as a growing number of hospitals bring in sleep pods for doctors and nurses to grab power naps during their shifts.

    Pods have been installed or are being trialled by a dozen hospitals in England. Royal Wolverhampton NHS trust was the first to try them, in June 2018. “Too many staff end up exhausted because they have long, busy, sometimes stressful shifts, often with little chance to grab a break because pressure on the NHS is so intense,” said Prof Steve Field, the trust’s chair.

    Royal Wolverhampton has spent £17,000 to put one pod each in the A&E unit, doctors’ mess and maternity department at New Cross hospital and another in Cannock Chase hospital, which it also runs. It has also installed a recliner chair to give medics at the 850-bed New Cross site another option for some shuteye.

    “We know that doctors provide better, safer care when they are fresh and alert. We have found [the pods] to be very popular with staff and also very effective in helping them get more rest,” said Field, a former GP.

    Any health professionals – nurses, midwives, radiographers, physiotherapists – who need a break can use the pods, except for the one in the doctors’ mess which is only for medics still in training. “Staff now have places to go to get the rest they need on a 24/7 basis,” Field said.

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    The pods are used the most between midnight and 4am and also between noon and 4pm. The average stay is 17 to 24 minutes, enough for someone to recharge their batteries, but some have used one for as long as 79 minutes, trust research shows. Some staff spend time in a pod before they drive home after a nightshift.

    Walsall Healthcare trust found a similar pattern when it tried out two pods and a recliner chair last year. “The feedback was overwhelmingly positive.” said Catherine Griffiths, its director for people and culture. Comments included “I had a lovely, restorative nap” and “the energy pods are comfortable and relaxing”. The trust hopes to buy several pods to make them a permanent feature of the hospital.

    Hereford county hospital has just installed two pods made by an American company, MetroNaps. The futuristic-looking devices comprise a bed covered by a low-slung circular lid, and offer soothing music, lights and vibrations to aid the quest for a rest.

    The Whittington hospital in London has come up with a different remedy for sleep deprivation among its doctors: camp beds. It is buying 14 fold-down beds to save staff – especially those on nightshifts – from having to grab 40 winks on couches or on unused trollies in clinical areas.

    It is also spending another chunk of its £60,000 share of the £10m that the health secretary Matt Hancock has made available to improve doctors’ rest areas on a vending machine stocking ready meals.

    Dr Mike Farquhar, a consultant in sleep medicine at the Evelina children’s hospital in London, who has persuaded NHS chiefs to take staff slumber more seriously, said hospitals were finally taking practical action.

    “Air traffic controllers are only allowed to work for two hours and then they must take a 30-minute break, because if they were tired and made a mistake, bad things could happen,” he said. “But in the NHS, where the pressure is often high and sustained, the problem is that the people delivering care will usually choose to prioritise everything else – especially patients – over themselves and sacrifice things like breaks and sleep.”

    Prerana Issar, the chief people officer for the NHS in England, said: “I’m delighted that so many trusts are now taking action to make sure their staff can rest before or after a long and tiring shift. Staff are the heart of our health service, which is why as part of the long-term plan we are committed to making the NHS the best place to work, and offering comfortable sleeping spaces is one of the ways hospitals and other services can support clinicians to provide the outstanding care the NHS is known for.”

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