Double shifts have been reduced at all major public hospitals in the three months to the end of June 2016, compared to the same period in the year before.

This is a further positive outcome of the changes implemented under the Hodgman Liberal Government’s One Health System reforms.

In the quarter to the end of June, we saw reductions across all hospitals of up to 25 per cent, following on from reductions of up to 50 per cent recorded to the end of March 2016.
The safety of patients and staff is our top priority.

Late last year the government announced a 12 hour cap on nursing and midwifery shift lengths in recognition of fatigue as a risk factor. This came into effect on January 18, 2016.
As a result double shifts have dropped around the state over the past six months, compared to the same period last year, with:

* 301 fewer shifts at the Royal Hobart Hospital – a reduction of 25 per cent;
* 331 fewer shifts at the Launceston General Hospital – a reduction of 34 per cent; and
* 14 fewer shifts at the North West Regional and Mersey Community hospitals, where double shifts are historically less frequent – a fall of 7 per cent.

Reporting of data for some primary health and mental health services commenced for the first time in 2016, so the underlying reduction in double shifts is even greater.

We have been very clear that nursing double shifts represent increased risk to patient and staff safety, and we must address the issue as a priority.

However, pleasingly, nursing overtime has reduced – with almost 1500 fewer hours of overtime worked in the first six months of 2016, compared to 2015 – a drop of 2.5 per cent.

This is also quite remarkable in the context of the reduced use of double shifts and new limits on overtime as a workforce management tool.

Performance of overtime is not a safety issue like double shifts, but it is a costly inefficiency and by reducing overtime we can provide greater investment in frontline care.

While this early trend is encouraging, there is much more work to do to maintain these improvements in coming months, where historically there are greater levels of sick leave contributing to increases in double shifts over winter.

We must and will continue to look at all appropriate means to tackle the problem of double shifts, and we are working constructively through the Double Shift Working Group.

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