Health workers working poorly structured shift patterns can easily become dependent on caffeine to keep them stay awake and pills to get them to sleep, according to health workers’ union Unison.
Delegates at Unison’s health conference in Plymouth called for urgent action to tackle the stresses of working rotating shifts, alternating day and night shifts, because of the damage it can cause to workers’ physical and mental health and the disruption to family life.
Midwife Rachel Voller said many thousands of NHS employees work shifts and the number is rising.
“People are rightly worried about the long-term damage to their health caused by fatigue and difficulties with sleeping,” she said.
“These are common problems and can lead members to become dependent on caffeine to keep them awake and pills to get them to sleep.”
Last week the Health & Safety executive issued new research showing that shift workers are more likely to suffer from heart disease, diabetes and other serious illnesses.