Guardians of Safe Working Hours
Formal medical training teaches junior doctors the anatomy, physiology, communication and practical skills they need to be valued members of the medical workforce. But very few are taught about their working conditions and pay or given the tools they need to ensure they are being treated fairly. Medics.Academy’s new Junior Doctor Contract course, devised and written by junior doctors with personal experience of working under the new contract, aims to equip junior doctors with the knowledge they need to ensure they are working safe hours and being adequately reimbursed for them. Sign up for access to our free comprehensive video course here.
Our third blog in the Junior Doctor Contract Series looks at the roles and responsibilities of the Guardian of Safe Working Hours.
Who are the Guardians and what do they do?
The role of the Guardian of Safe Working Hours was introduced with the 2016 Junior Doctor Contract. Guardians are intended to be advocates for junior doctors and ensure work schedules are followed, working hours safeguards are adhered to, and doctors are fairly reimbursed for the hours they work. All institutions with over 10 trainee doctors are obliged to appoint a guardian; those with below 10 trainees must make a guardian from another institution available. According to the BMA, guardians should ‘identify and either resolve or escalate problems.’
Guardians are appointed by competitive application and are usually consultants, staff grade or associate specialist doctors. Guardians are required to forgo any other managerial roles in order to preserve impartiality.
Guardians are also contractually required to foster an environment where trainees feel able to exception report and are encouraged to submit exception reports where they are needed.
Contact details for your Guardian of Safe Working Hours should be available on your trust website or intranet, along with their contact details. Their details should also be provided to you on your induction. If you are unsure who your guardian is, ask your peers or your educational supervisor.
When should I talk to them?
Guardians of safe working hours should be copied into all exception reports. Though your educational supervisor has immediate responsibility for actioning your exception reports, guardians oversee all exception reporting and identify systemic problems that may need intervention.
You can also speak to your guardian if you disagree with the response you have been given by your educational supervisor to an exception report; or is you feel you have been pressured not to exception report a working hours issue.
The guardian may contact you if they notice any trends in your exception reporting that may merit a review of your working schedule to safeguard your working hours.
Your guardian is likely to attend Junior Doctor Forum meetings, where you can speak to them in person.
What if I have concerns about my guardian?
If you have concerns about the conduct of the guardian of safe working hours, you can discuss this with a trusted senior, such as your educational supervisor, or your trust Freedom to Speak Up Guardian, who is responsible for maintaining an environment where trainees feel supported to voice any concerns they have.
Where can I find more information?
Medics.Academy junior doctors Dr Emma Cox and Dr Vidushi Golash have devised and written a free online course that outlines issues relevant to doctors working under the 2016 Junior Doctor Contract. Below is a clip from the Junior Doctor Contract course.
About the Author
Anna is a soon-to-be final year medical student and Medics Academy Fellow. She is interested in women’s health, education and journalism.