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Seizing the future

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European Working Time Directive

The European Working Time Directive (EWTD) was introduced in 1998. The directive reduced working hours for most staff to 48 hours per week and resulted in changes to the way hospitals organised their services.

For junior doctors, who historically worked up to 120 hours per week, the directive was implemented in stages. From 2009, junior doctors’ working hours will reduce from 56 to a maximum of 48 hours a week. This would represent a loss to the Trust equivalent to 31 full time doctors.

The Trust cannot replace these posts like-for-like. Doctors in training, as with other clinical staff, need to see a certain range and number of patients to enable them to meet the academic and training requirements of their professions. Recruiting additional doctors is therefore not a solution, as training requirements would not be met. Instead, other professions are being trained to take on some of the tasks traditionally performed by junior doctors.

This does not replace the need for junior doctors, but ensures their time is more focused on using their particular skills to maximise the benefits for patients. Nevertheless, junior doctors are still a key part of out of hours rotas, but with fewer hours available, this is another challenge to providing services across three sites.

“It was obvious that all services could not safely be provided everywhere and that resources and senior staff were spread too thinly.”

Professor Sir George Alberti, NCAT report August 2008

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