New figures showing that half of junior doctors are working in excess of 48 hours a week are “worrying” for the NHS, the British Medical Association has warned.
Figures published by workforce body NHS Employers showed that 46% of junior doctors are working more than a recommended 48-hour week, which will be introduced in August 2009.
Under the Working Time Directive (WTD), by August 2009 junior doctors must work no more than 48 hours a week, down from the current 56 hours. In addition to a reduction in working hours, specific rest provisions have also been introduced, including 11 hours’ continuous rest in every 24-hour period.
Ram Moorthy, chairman of the Juniors Doctors Committee at the BMA, said: “The new figures on junior doctor working hours are worrying. Trusts have had many years to prepare for the introduction of the WTD and it is of concern that so much remains to be done to bring junior doctors’ working hours down in line with the rest of the medical profession.
“Trusts owe it to patients to ensure they implement the essential health and safety legislation that is needed to protect employees from working excessive hours.”
Moorthy said it was vital that the change was carefully managed so that the reduction in working hours did not negatively impact on the quality of junior doctor training or patient care.
A report earlier this year into doctors’ training warned that education could suffer when the directive comes into force. The report suggested introducing new contracts that would separate work on the wards from training time.