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NHS not ready for work laws

20th November 2008

A survey carried out by two Royal Colleges has revealed that surgery teams in many NHS hospitals are not ready for a likely fall next year in the maximum hours they can work.

surgeonatwork

The Royal College of Surgeons and the Royal College of Anaesthetists has warned that failure to plan for the changes could hit patient safety and training.

The UK has an opt-out, which allows doctors to work longer, but with that now in question it has emerged that fewer than half of trusts were meeting the 48-hour EU limit.

The European Working Time Directive, introduced in 1998, has proved a challenge for the NHS with many junior doctors working more than 48 hours a week.

With a possibility that the European Parliament could decide to remove the opt-out clause – an issue MEPs will debate shortly – the Department of Health has told trusts they need to comply with the 48-hour limit.

Royal College of Surgeons’ president John Black said hospitals would need funding to help make the changes.

He added: "With the deadline looming, surgeons and anaesthetists are worried that NHS trusts will be tempted to simply cobble together rotas that fit the law but don't take proper account of night-time staff, ensure patients have as few handovers as possible or provide junior doctors with the varied training needed."

The Department of Health has run pilot projects to help trusts move towards the 48-hour limit while NHS Employers said organisations are working to ensure junior doctors work no more than 48 hours a week from August 2009.

 

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