Specialty trainees exceed EWTD

  • Date: 22 December 2011

FULL time medical specialty trainees are working an average of 49 hours a week, exceeding the 48-hour limit set out in the European Working Time Directive.

New figures from the Royal College of Physicians’ (RCP) census of medical registrars show that full time trainees are clocking up an average of 46.6 hours in a typical week and 59 hours in a busy week, an average of 49 hours.

Chairman of the BMA’s Junior Doctors Committee Tom Dolphin said: “The limits imposed by the directive are there for patient safety reasons and for health and safety reasons, so it’s disappointing that medical registrars are still working outside of the limits.

“We’ve been building up to EWTD for 10 years, and it has been in place for two, so why aren’t trusts compliant? They’ve got away with it.”

An article in BMJ Careers reported how nearly two-thirds (61 per cent) of the 3,000 census respondents said the quality of training had become worse or much worse since the EWTD was introduced, up from 57 per cent in 2009/2010. Sixty-three per cent thought the quality of patient care had suffered under the directive.

Director of the RCP’s medical workforce unit Andrew Goddard told BMJ Careers: “It seems that the EWTD has been good for doctors but not necessarily for patients. That’s a pretty scary message. He said continuity of care had also suffered under the EWTD.

The RCP census also asked doctors about their quality of life. It found most registrars thought their work-life balance had either improved (42 per cent) or not changed (38 per cent) since the EWTD was introduced. Only 32 per cent of respondents in 2010 said the directive had improved their work-life balance.

Only 7.2 per cent of registrars who responded to the college’s census reported feeling negative about going to work in the morning, while 66 per cent of registrars were positive or very positive—a reflection of the improved work-life balance reported, the RCP has suggested.

Read the Census of consultant physicians and medical registrars in the UK, 2010

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