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NHS not ready for hours cut

30th December 2008

UK hospitals are not prepared for the pending cut in junior doctors’ working hours, according to doctors’ leaders.

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They fear the funds to help hospitals be ready for the European Working Time Directive (EWTD), which will see the cap on juniors' hours fall from 56 hours to 48 hours a week in August, are not being fully utilised.

While the government set aside £110m in 2008 to help hospitals in England prepare for the reduction in junior doctors' hours, with another £310m due to become available in 2009, the British Medical Association fears that primary care trusts have not passed the money on.

The government money has been allocated to help hospitals employ additional staff or on systems that enable doctors to prioritise calls better.

With figures from early 2008 showing that 46% of junior doctors were on rotas that were unlikely to comply with the new rules, the BMA has written to health minister Ann Keen to express its concerns.

A similar survey in Scotland as recently as November found 49% of junior doctors were currently employed on rotas that exceed the 48-hour limit.

Chairman of the BMA's consultants committee, Dr Jonathan Fielden, said the change in hours is probably the biggest challenge hospitals will face this year.

The Department of Health believes significant progress had already been made, with some trusts already operating a 48-hour week rota.

However, a spokesperson added: "We are monitoring the situation as some smaller specialties and isolated hospitals may find meeting the deadline more challenging."

 

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