Work Time Regulations Adversely Affect British Care

August 1, 2008

The European Working Time Regulations -- which reduced the maximum working week to 56 hours in 2007, will further reduce it to 48 hours in 2009, and require a minimum of 11 hours rest in any 24-hour period -- have adversely affected clinical care, and the quality of life and training for junior medical staff in the United Kingdom, according to an editorial published online July 31 in BMJ.

FRIDAY, Aug. 1 (HealthDay News) -- The European Working Time Regulations -- which reduced the maximum working week to 56 hours in 2007, will further reduce it to 48 hours in 2009, and require a minimum of 11 hours rest in any 24-hour period -- have adversely affected clinical care, and the quality of life and training for junior medical staff in the United Kingdom, according to an editorial published online July 31 in BMJ.

Hugh Cairns, M.D., of King's College Hospital in London, U.K., and colleagues cited a 2005 Royal College of Surgeons' survey showing that 75 percent of junior doctors believe that continuity of care has deteriorated as a result of the regulations and that about 90 percent believe that direct contact with patients and training have decreased. The same survey showed that more than 50 percent of specialist registrars believe that their quality of life is worse on partial shifts.

The authors also cited a more recent British Medical Association survey showing that 57 percent of junior doctors and 67 percent of all grades say that doctors should be able to opt out of the 48-hour week.

"We therefore call on the British government, in collaboration with other European countries facing similar problems, to abandon the tightening of maximum working hours from 56 to 48 hours and to reduce the minimum daily rest from 11 to eight hours," the authors write. "Although limits need to be set on the number of hours people work, the change from 56 to 48 hours is a step too far. The creation of complicated rotas, full shifts and cross cover is not the solution to a fundamentally flawed reduction in hours of work."

Editorial

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