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RCEM responds to new poll which finds one-third of junior doctors struggle to access nutritious meals on shift and over three quarters have experienced burnout at work

11 November 2022

Commenting on a UK-wide investigation by the Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland (MDDUS) which found one in three junior doctors struggle to access nutritious meals and snacks while on shift and more than three quarters of junior doctors have experienced burnout at work, Dr Hannah Baird, co-Chair of the Emergency Medicine Trainees Association at the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said:

“I know I, along with many other junior colleagues, can identify with the findings here. In Emergency Medicine the shifts are long and they are tough, many junior Emergency Medicine doctors are burnt out and exhausted. For a lot of colleagues, it is difficult to access a nutritious meal while working. This damages morale and makes staff feel undervalued and contributes to burnout and exhaustion. The current circumstances – the shortfall of both health care staff and beds and the difficulties in admitting patients leading to dangerously crowded Emergency Departments – mean Emergency Medicine staff are working flat-out and are stretched incredibly thinly. There is little to no time for a restful break to have a meal, particularly over nights where the evidence supports the need for a breaks and good nutrition. Colleagues are going above and beyond, working longer hours, and becoming increasingly tired and burnt out.

“The NHS is in crisis and it is exceptionally challenging for all staff right now, particularly for junior doctors. It is unsafe to have tired, burnt out and hungry junior Emergency Medicine doctors caring for patients in Emergency Departments over long shifts. It is a threat to patient safety.

“We need to see recognition of the challenges facing junior doctors at this time and we need Trusts, Boards and health leaders across the UK to do more to support them. Ensuring there is hot food available and that junior doctors are able to make time to sit down and eat is vital. We are already seeing a retention crisis in Emergency Medicine and we will lose junior doctors if there is a failure to ensure they are supported, looked after, valued and appreciated.”

Notes to editor


Survation, the opinion pollster, questioned 850 members of the Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland (MDDUS), a clinical defence organisation that represents 56,000 health professionals across the UK. The results were as follows:

  • 32% said they are rarely or never able to purchase nutritious food while working.
  • 77% of junior said they have experienced burnout at work.
  • 39% of those experiencing burnout cited lack of access to nutritious food as a contributing factor.
  • 51% said they have felt fatigued due to a lack of access to nutritious food.
  • 16% said they are considering leaving the profession due to a lack of access to nutritious food.
  • 19% cited lack of access to nutritious food as a reason they wouldn’t recommend healthcare as a career to a school leaver.
  • 61% have had to work more hours in a week than they considered safe.
  • 70% said they had to work when they were more tired than they considered safe.
  • 35% said there is no safe comfortable space for them to rest on their break.
  • 60% of all respondents said they would not recommend a healthcare career to a school leaver.
  • 66% felt that when they worked tired patient safety was at risk.
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