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Monday, 24 September, 2001, 09:18 GMT 10:18 UK
A mean time for doctors

By BBC Doctor Colin Thomas

I don't know about you, but the impending change from BST back to GMT and the clocks going back an hour fills me with anxiety every year.

It's such a relief in the spring when they go forward, but I spend the whole summer dreading the prospect of waking up in the dark and leaving work in the pitch black when the winter comes.

Of course the only single advantage of the clocks going back is the extra hour you get in bed, which let's face it is scant recompense.

However, for a struggling junior doctor this extra hour could be the difference between waking up like a zombie, or waking up like a zombie on Valium.

The trouble is when you're a junior doctor you don't tend to notice what day it is, let alone what DATE it is, and clocks going forward or backward are the last thing on your mind.

In fact when I was doing a particularly tough six-month job each day was labelled in my mind as "number of days to go to the end of this job".

So one autumn weekend I was on emergency anaesthetic call at a Nottingham hospital, and oblivious to the date.

Quite often the weekends weren't too busy as the surgeons tended to save up the cases that came in as urgent and operated on them in a block in the early evening if they could.

Plastic not fantastic

However we anaesthetists had one sworn enemy, and that was the plastic surgeons.

Some plastic surgery operations take so long to perform that there isn't enough time during the day, so sneaky junior doctors would slip in a case over the weekend that could be considered as urgent, but not really an emergency.

This weekend was one such occasion and I wearily started anaesthetising with a colleague at 9pm that evening praying that it might be quick.

Of course it wasn't, and as 2am approached I had already pencilled in my application to be a dustman - a practice I always went through in such circumstances.

Suddenly as I watched as the clock on the theatre wall it started to whizz round, each hour lasting less than a minute. I had no idea what was going on.

My first assumption was that there was an electrical fault, but as the time settled on 5 minutes past one, I suddenly realised that it was "'clocks going back time" ...and I would have to sit through that whole hour again!

So I ended up spending an extra hour getting no sleep, and I vowed that I would make sure that I was on call again when the clocks went forward so I could get that precious hour back again.....and do you know what? I was up all that night as well!

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