The NHS must act “in the spirit” of the Working Time Directive (WTD) when deciding how to solve the problem of junior doctors’ hours, NHS Employers has warned.
From August 2009, doctors will be limited to working 48 hours a week. A report into doctors’ training last week by Sir John Tooke warned that education could suffer when the directive comes into force.
Tooke suggested the introduction of new contracts that would separate work on the wards from training time.
But Sian Thomas, deputy director of NHS Employers, which represents trusts on workforce issues, remained unconvinced by the recommendation.
“Anything [employers] do has to be in the spirit of the WTD, and I’m not sure this plan would be,” she said.
Several NHS pilot projects are exploring ways of complying with the WTD and the workforce implications. “NHS Employers is working with the Department of Health to share best practice across the health service,” Thomas said.
“Employers’ priorities have always been in maintaining high-quality patient care alongside excellent clinical training. But you still have to come back to the fact that doctors will be gaining less experience and continuity of patient care will be affected,” she warned.