Junior doctors still working over 48 hours a week

Junior doctors are still working over 48 hours a week, says the Royal College of Surgeons. This is despite the European Working Time Directive, which came into effect in August 2009 and limits doctors’ working hours to a maximum of 48 hours a week.

Freedom of information requests sent to 77 trusts by British Medical Journal Careers revealed that the 57 who responded were complying with the directive, although Bob Greatorex, council lead for workforce planning and professional standards, does not believe these claims to be true. He says that many trainees are working in addition to their 48 hours as “internal locums”, and that the additional hours are not recorded.

“They are doing this in order to keep services going and for patient safety purposes,” Greatorex said, explaining that the 48-hour rotas often meant there were not enough doctors on duty.

2020health has recently found evidence that indirectly supports these claims. We sent a raft of freedom of information requests to foundation and acute trusts, and found that a number of trusts are running overseas campaigns to recruit junior doctors from EU and non-EU countries such as India and the Philippines. In fact, junior doctors comprise approximately 14% of all the staff recruited overseas in the last three financial years, and the numbers are on the rise.

It is clear that the European directive has created a shortage of junior doctors, making it difficult for hospitals to run their services, and requiring trusts to run expensive overseas campaigns in order to fill the gaps. From the figures, which show an increasing trend over the last three years, the situation will only get worse. In these tough economic times and with the NHS looking to cut costs, it is important that this issue be addressed sooner rather than later. The NHS cannot continue to function like a leaking boat, plugging holes with staff from abroad.

The 2020health report on overseas recruitment will be published later this year.

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