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Junior doctors 'bullied'

7th April 2008

The British Medical Association has claimed that up to 50% of junior doctors feel they have no choice but to work unpaid overtime.

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Many junior doctors think that they are in danger of being fired if they do not accept the overtime they are asked to work.

By August next year, hospitals must lessen the length of the official working week to 48 hours as part of the European Working Hours Directive.

Research by the BMA has revealed that many doctors work 20-30 more hours per week than the 56 hours that are stipulated by their contracts.

Almost one third of doctors said they had treated patients when they were not meant to be working.

The difficulties have been added to because fewer junior doctors are willing to fill temporary jobs, due to an "unpopular" recruiting process.

Junior doctors are often forced to fill in "gaps" in the system themselves, instead of this role being filled by temporary workers.

As a consequence, junior doctors have to work "secret" hours because trusts will be fined if they report doctors are working over their limited number of hours.

Alastair Henderson, acting director of NHS Employers said: "If the BMA has genuine evidence they should raise it with the medical directors and chief executives of individual hospitals."

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said the BMA survey was "potentially misleading" as it only represented "less than half of one per cent of those working in the NHS."

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