Junior Doctors Working Off The Clock

The study revealed that more than 50% of Junior Doctors are working in excess of 56 hours per week even though the latest provisions of the European Working Time Directive allow a maximum 48 hour week. Doctors are being pressured to fill gaps in rotas and this is causing many to miss out on training opportunities.

Shree Datta, the chair of the Junior Doctors Committee said that “The government would have us believe that the 48-hour week has been successfully implemented in UK hospitals. Our survey suggests that compliance has only been achieved by pressurising junior doctors into working off the clock.”

The study revealed that:

  • 1 in 3 Junior Doctors is working in excess of an average 65 hours per week
  • More than 50% of respondents said they were asked to provide emergency cover at less than 48 hours notice
  • 12% of trainees have been asked to provide emergency cover on more than 10 occasions
  • 3 out of 4 Junior Doctors who had missed out on training reported missing lectures and training days
  • 6 out of 10 Junior Doctors who had missed out on training had missed supervision and opportunities to complete new procedures
  • 2 in 5 Junior Doctors have come to work in their free time to receive speciality training

What is the European Working Time Directive?

The European Working Time Directive (EWTD) ‘lays down the minimum requirements in relation to working hours, rest periods and annual leave’. The legislation became law in the UK on the 1st October 1998 as the ‘Working Time Regulations’ and although it applied to the vast majority of workers certain exceptions were made, including for doctors in training. In 2004 the EWTD provisions were extended to doctors in training and hours were reduced to a maximum 56 hours in August 2007 and a maximum 38 hours in August 2009.

The EWTD stipulates that workers must have:

  • 11 hours continuous rest in 24 hours
  • 24 hours continuous rest in 7 days (or 48 hrs in 14 days)
  • 20 minute break in work periods of over 6 hours
  • 4 weeks annual leave
  • (for night workers) an average of no more than 8 hours work in 24 over the reference period

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