Headlines: April 10th, 2008

Junior doctors believe their training will suffer when limits on their working time come into force next year. The results of two surveys published today by the British medical Association show two thirds of them fear a new 48-hour working week will have a negative effect on their training but six out of ten also believe their ability to provide safe care for patients had been compromised by their long hours.

From August 2009, the European Working Time Directive will mean junior doctors will be able to spend only 48 hours a week in hospital rather than the current 56 hours. Almost two-thirds of those taking part in the first survey thought compliance with this would have a negative impact on training. A third said their biggest concern was the impact on the quality of training, and about the same number were concerned about the effect there would be on their ability to gain the skills they needed to practise safely.

Only three in ten doctors, however, wanted the BMA to lobby for a delay in bringing in the 48-hour limit and 66 per cent felt doctors should be protected from working excessive hours. Six out of ten respondents said their own ability to provide safe medical care to patients had been compromised by pressures to work excessive hours. The doctors want the BMA to campaign for a system that would ensure training could be delivered within a 48-hour week.

Mr Ram Moorthy, chairman of the BMA Junior Doctors Committee, said, “The 48-hour limit is coming, and it will have a massive impact. Our training has to get far better if we’re going to continue to produce the best quality of doctors. We need to look at the possibility of lengthening the amount of time it takes to qualify as a consultant.”