$3 million plan to protect welfare of junior doctors

Junior doctors at Blacktown Hospital
The new plan to protect our junior doctors is based on feedback from the JMO Wellbeing and Support Forum held in June this year.

A multi-million-dollar reform plan devised with the state’s junior doctors was released today to better safeguard their health and mental wellbeing.

NSW Health Secretary Elizabeth Koff said the $3 million JMO (Junior Medical Officer) Wellbeing and Support Plan will be implemented over the next 18 months.

“The Plan focuses on 10 practical initiatives, but a key aspect is a reduction in working arrangements for junior doctors to address fatigue,” Ms Koff said.

“We have met JMO calls for rostered shift periods totalling no more than 14 consecutive hours (inclusive of meal breaks and handover) similar to other states.

“In addition, rosters must be arranged so there is a break of at least 10 hours from when a junior doctor finishes work, to when they start a rostered shift again.”

While NSW Health has adopted JMO suggestions, Health Minister Brad Hazzard wants the health system to work towards rostered shifts of 12 hours over the next years.

The move would ensure doctors in training in NSW have among the shortest working hours in Australia and deliver the best possible care for patients.

The plan is based on feedback from the JMO Wellbeing and Support Forum convened by Mr Hazzard and Minister for Mental Health Tanya Davies in June this year.

More than 200 participants attended, representing junior and senior doctors, specialty medical colleges, mental health and suicide prevention experts and other health organisations.

The JMO Wellbeing & Support Plan also includes a pilot program with the Blackdog Institute, a new JMO Recruitment Governance Unit to make recruitment fairer and more transparent, a review of JMO rostering practices, developing mentoring and peer support schemes, implementing fairer parental leave policies and lengthening training contracts.

Mr Hazzard advocated to state and territory colleagues at the recent COAG Health Council for changes to mandatory reporting laws regarding doctors suffering from mental illness. The Council is now seeking national agreement on these changes.

“NSW Health can’t do this on its own. We urge medical colleges, universities and other organisations to examine their practices and identify how they may be able to better support doctors in training,” Ms Koff said.

“While this plan is just the start, it is a huge step in the right direction.”

The JMO Wellbeing & Support Plan can be viewed at http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/jmo- wellbeing

JMOs are being encouraged to complete a survey that will help advise NSW Health on how to improve JMO wellbeing. The survey is available here:  http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/workforce/culture/Pages/JMO-Survey.aspx