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To protect healthcare workers

Not a month goes by without a new regional or national survey confirming that fatigue is affecting the well-being and safety of healthcare workers with greater intensity and on a larger scale than ever before. 


This fatigue is not only a physical burden that impacts on their daily professional and personal lives. It also affects their morale and endangers their lives and the lives of others. The most obvious danger is to their patients, but one can also think of what can happen on the way home when they risk falling asleep at the wheel. 


In the long term, fatigue can also lead to burnout and mental health problems, which have reached unprecedented levels in European healthcare. 


According to a study published in the British Journal of Medicine in 2022, physicians with burnout are up to four times more likely to be dissatisfied with their job and more than three times as likely to have thoughts or intentions to leave their job (turnover) or to regret their career choice.
Physicians with burnout are twice as likely to be involved in patient safety incidents and show low professionalism, and over twice as likely to receive low satisfaction ratings from patients.



To protect patient

To protect patients 

Fatigue also has a significant impact on patient safety; lack of sleep can affect the level of vigilance or ability to interpret information or events, as well as the speed and quality of communication and decision-making[2]

Recent studies[3] have confirmed an obvious link between fatigue and patient safety, finding that doctors suffering from burnout are far more likely to be involved in incidents where patients’ safety is compromised. 

With overworked healthcare workers and understaffed teams, the quality of care suffers, leading to medical errors and poor outcomes for patients. And with fewer staff, patients may have to wait longer to be seen and treated, leading to delays in care.

To put it in a nutshell, we could say that high quality care for patients starts with high quality care for healthcare workers. 


[2] FATIGUE IN ANAESTHESIOLOGY – CALL FOR A CHANGE OF CULTURE AND REGULATIONS, Nancy Redfern, Federico Bilotta, Igor Abramovich, Ioana Grigoras, in European Journal of Anaesthesiology 40(2):p 78-81, February 2023. 


BMJ 2022; 378 doi:

To ensure the continuity of care 

The additional workload from the Covid-19 pandemic and the large backlog of postponed operations that needs to be cleared, are not the only causes of the fatigue. Surveys also point to pre-existing staff shortages or particularly difficult working conditions. 


With health budgets under pressure due to inflation and the energy crisis, the situation is likely to get even worse in the short to medium term. 

At the same time, as the population ages, the demand for healthcare will continue to grow. This is worrying given that 40% of doctors are close to retirement age in a third of European countries[1], the rate of early retirement is increasing exponentially and the profession is becoming less and less attractive to younger generations.


Whilst experts agree that health systems should build resilience to deal with global adverse events such as new pandemics, this poses a real risk to the continuity of care in health systems across Europe.  


Ultimately, the risk for us all as potential patients is:  will there be someone to care for us tomorrow when we get sick?

[1] Ticking timebomb: Without immediate action, health and care workforce gaps in the European Region could spell disaster (

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