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Most trainee doctors now work 48-hour week

Study finds most junior doctors compliant with EWTD

Adrian O'Dowd

Friday, 11 November 2011

Most of the 300 doctors in training rotas who were exempted from the 48-hour limit on working time imposed by European regulations are now compliant, according to a report published today in BMJ Careers.

The journal asked all of the 77 hospital trusts in England whose rotas had been “derogated” from the European Working Time Directive (EWTD) when it was introduced in August 2009, allowing them to operate at a maximum of 52 hours a week instead of 48 hours until 31 July 2011.

Of the 57 trusts that responded to a freedom of information request by BMJ Careers, all confirmed that their training rotas were now compliant with the 48-hour limit as set out in the directive.

Some trusts had made their derogated rotas compliant with the 48-hour limit from 2009, but others, such as Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals Trust, had only ensured compliance by October of this year.

Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust said it had encountered problems in recruiting for some posts, but said it expected its rotas to be compliant this autumn.

Many of the derogated rotas were in acute or emergency specialties such as emergency medicine, obstetrics and gynaecology, and anaesthetics, said the journal.

The working time directive, enshrined into UK law in 1998 and effective from August 2009, reduced the maximum hours that junior doctors are able to work from an average of 56 a week to 48.

The UK was one of only three member states to be granted derogation from the directive, which meant trusts could apply for certain rotas to have a maximum of 52 hours a week working time for up to two years.

Ben Molyneux, deputy chair of the BMA’s junior doctors committee welcomed the news, saying: “I would be very concerned if they hadn’t done it. If they are operating outside of 48 hours they’re operating illegally.”

Dr Molyneux said the committee had not been notified of any trainees who were still working a rota of 52 hours a week despite the derogation period ending.

DOI: 10.1136/bmj.d7301

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