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Wednesday 20th June 2018

Surgeon shortage at hospitals

23rd January 2009

Hospitals across Britain are facing a surgeon shortage as they prepare to implement a new European directive that will cut doctors’ working hours.

In a survey of 1,096 trainee surgeons by the Association of Surgeons in Training, about 90% said they were working more than the maximum of 58 hours a week.

From August, the European Working Time Directive will limit that to 48 hours.

Surgeons want to opt out of the directive and are also concerned that under the new rules there will be less overlap between shifts leading to rushed and potentially unsafe handovers.

Royal College of Surgeons’ president John Black said: "There are simply not the surgeons in the UK to fill the gaps when every doctor's hours are cut to a 48 hours per week maximum.

"Trainees are telling the college they cannot gain enough experience to progress on the shortened hours."

The European Working Time Directive first came into force in the UK in October 1998 but until now doctors have not been covered by it.

NHS Employers, the organisation representing hospital trusts, does not agree with the blanket opt-out call for surgeons.

Spokesman Alastair Henderson said: "We believe that increasing junior surgeons' hours would be a backward step. We recognise, however, that there are a small number of services for which compliance may not be possible by August 2009."

The British Medical Association said it was not the directive that was the problem but complacency by some trusts in not making the changes needed in working practices to meet the legislation.


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