Mr Leon Perera asked the Minister for Health (a) whether any studies have been conducted to (i) ascertain the efficacy of work weeks of up to 80 hours on junior doctors’ training outcomes vis-à-vis a shorter work week of 70 hours and (ii) assess the potential impact of long working hours on patient and doctor safety; and (b) if not, whether the Government will consider conducting such studies and publishing the findings.
Mr Ong Ye Kung: Some international studies had shown that long working hours were associated with increase in risks to patient safety (e.g. medical errors and adverse events) especially when doctors worked continuously beyond 24 hours. Therefore, inter alia, local work hours guidelines limits work hours for junior doctors to a maximum of 24 consecutive hours of clinical care duties with not more than six hours for handover. Besides working hours, patient safety can also be affected by other factors, including work processes, environmental and organisational factors.
On the other hand, some international studies also showed that reduced work hours may result in shortage of manpower and reduced opportunities for learning. By inference, this will have a negative effect on clinical outcomes and safety.
MOH is looking into the wellness of junior doctors under the National Wellness Committee for Junior Doctors (NWC-JD), and that includes a review of junior doctor work hours and training outcomes while ensuring that patient safety and training requirements are not compromised.
Ministry of Health
1 August 2022