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Half of Trusts unprepared for 48 hour target

Senior staff ‘must engage’ with new work laws, say Royal Colleges

Lisa Hitchen

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Two Royal Colleges have reiterated their warnings today over clinicians being unprepared for the August 2009 deadline for the 48 hour working week.

In a joint survey carried out by the Royal College of Surgeons of England and the Royal College of Anaesthetists, over half of English Trusts said they were not meeting the target.

Seventy-four trusts were sent online questionnaires and 66 responded. Several trusts who reported compliance also took part in telephone interviews.

The two colleges are warning that patients’ safety and staff training are likely to suffer unless NHS bosses concentrate their efforts into ensuring the changes are smoothly carried through.

The WTD-Implications and Practical Suggestions to Achieve Compliance report found that just 49% of anaesthetic and 42% of surgical rotas from those supplied by Trusts (51 Trusts for anaesthesia and 39 for surgery) were within next year’s limit.

Of all responders, only 18% said all their surgery staff were meeting the target whilst just a third of anaesthetic staff were. Of those not meeting the deadline, less than 15% of Trusts report having a costed plan in place to meet it.

Those trusts that are ready say it has taken six to 12 months to plan and carry out the changes. "Where hospitals were compliant there was evidence of active engagement with senior management within a Working Time Directive planning group. This group worked best when it included a senior medical person, a senior manager from HR, a member of the finance team and a range of clinicians including trainees," the report notes.

None of these trusts had reported any adverse safety incidents involving patients since moving to the shorter working week.

The report contains best practice examples of how to comply.

"Compliance requires full engagement of senior management to provide a strong clinical governance lead, adequate resources and recognition of the value of maintaining standards of teaching," said Dr Anne Thornberry, WTD Council lead for the Royal College of Anaesthetists.

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