Date Published: 2 April 2009

New figures show NHS is not sufficiently prepared for drop in doctors' hours

Health News from the United Kingdom (UK).

New figures from the NHS in England reveal a fundamental lack of preparation for the introduction of the 48-hour week for junior doctors, the BMA warns today (Thursday 2 April, 2009).

The new figures, which represent the situation in September 20081, show that one in three junior doctors was working in excess of 48 hours – a situation that will be illegal for employers from the 1st August 2009, when the European Working Time directive is fully applied to junior doctors.

Dr Andy Thornley, Chairman of the BMA’s Junior Doctors Committee, says:

The NHS has had 11 years to prepare for the introduction of the 48-hour week for junior doctors. The latest figures are alarming; suggesting that one in three junior doctors is working hours that will be illegal in just four months’ time.

Unless the challenges of the EWTD are taken more seriously there will undoubtedly be disruption to patient services in August. We are also deeply concerned that the quality of training for junior doctors will be threatened.

We are worried that opportunities for trainees to find the time to learn new procedures will be lost in the rush to deliver services to patients. If we do not equip our junior doctors with the necessary training to be the consultants and GPs of tomorrow, we risk jeopardising the levels of medical expertise patients deserve.

For years, the BMA has been calling for action to help minimise the negative impacts of the EWTD, such as investing in the quality of junior doctors’ training. We have also called for the length of training to increase where appropriate to ensure that trainees can accrue the necessary skills and experience.

Junior doctors must raise their concerns if they feel their training or the safety of patients is being adversely affected. We owe it to patients and future generations of doctors to speak out on this issue.

Targeted increases in numbers of consultants would go a long way to help deal with the increased work demands. The Working Time Directive should ultimately deliver benefits for doctors but we need the government to show leadership to ensure resources are available to reduce the impact on services to patients, both in the short and long term. “

 

Source: British Medical Association.

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