In the UK, there a number of people who are contracted to do unsociable hours with estimations from the Labour Force Survey in 2005 showing 3.6 million in shift work employment.1 Indeed, with many working in healthcare, manufacturing, transport, communications and hospitality professions, nine to five is no longer considered to be the norm.
With reports showing a decline in nightshifts and the three-day working pattern, it appears that emergence of ‘other types of shift work’ is on the rise highlighting the constant change that workers face.2
Finding the time
Because of the erratic and unpredictable patterns that shift work brings, it can therefore be difficult for people to arrange and attend much needed or emergency appointments.
In comparison to fixed contracts, which specify pre-arranged working days, shift work rotas are subject to change and can often not be distributed to staff until the last minute. As you would expect, booking an appointment in advance can become a seemingly impossible task.
What’s more, because employers are not required by law to allow workers to attend medical and dental appointments in work time,3 booking an appointment without a definite rota is out of the question, unless annual leave is approved for that specific time.
The toll on oral health
Not only does working unsociable hours and shift work have an effect on the convenience of booking an appointment, it could also create or contribute to medical and oral health problems.
Although there is insufficient research specifically on the topic of oral health in patients who work these hours, there is some evidence to suggest that it can be damaging to a person’s general health and wellbeing. As well as affecting sleep, weight and increasing the chance of diabetes, studies have shown a link between shift work and increased cardiovascular morbidity.4
Making appointments more accessible and offering online booking will encourage the general and oral health of shift workers. The current system has many flaws including busy phone lines, lack of out-of-hours options and limited choice of appointment times.
In comparison, online booking is flexible and transparent, offering 24/7 access to available appointments. A quick, easy-to-use and stress free alternative, online platforms such as Zesty offer a solution to those who work unsociable hours.
If you want to streamline your practice, optimise your surgery time and allow patients who do shift work to access services, contact Zesty today.
1 Unite guide to shift work and night work – a health and safety issue for unite members. Revised October 2013. Accessed online 24th July 2015.
2 Changes in shift work patterns over the last ten years (1999 – 2009). Prepared by Office for National Statistics for the Health and Safety Executive 2011. Accessed online 6th August 2015 http://www.hse.gov.uk/research/rrpdf/rr887.pdf
3 Advice Guide. Citizens advice bureau. Accessed online 24th July 2015 https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/Documents/Advice%20factsheets/Employment/e-time-off-work.pdf
4 Europe Published Central. Shift work and health – a critical review of the literature on working hours. J.M Harrington. Accessed online 24th July 2015 http://europepmc.org/abstract/med/784775