Rules on doctors' hours reviewed
The Government has ordered a review of how European rules limiting the number of hours doctors can work is affecting the NHS.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced an independent review chaired by the Royal College of Surgeons to assess the impact of the European Working Time Directive (EWTD).
This limits doctors to a 48-hour week and was brought in to put a stop to long working weeks of 70 or 80 hours or more in the NHS.
But the Royal College of Surgeons and others have said the limits mean surgeons cannot always get involved in all aspects of patient care while the quality of training for medical students has gone down.
The review, which will focus on how the directive has been implemented, will seek advice from experts on the impact of the regulations on the delivery of patient care and the training of the next generation of doctors.
The taskforce will report to the Government in January with recommendations on improving doctors' contracts.
Mr Hunt said: "No-one wants to go back to the bad old days of tired doctors working excessive hours, but when senior clinicians tell us this directive's implementation is harming patient safety and doctors' training, it's right that we take another look at it.
"This independent review by clinicians for clinicians will give us a sensible, frontline view on the working hours of British hospital doctors."
Professor Norman Williams, president of the Royal College of Surgeons, said: "This is a vital piece of work and I am pleased to be chairing this taskforce.
"There is a need for a deeper examination of the evidence on the impact and implementation of the reduced working hours on the delivery of care and training of doctors; the formation of this group will allow this.
"We will then produce expert advice and practical solutions to the Secretary of State with the aim of improving patient care."
Dr Mark Porter, chairman of the British Medical Association (BMA) Council, said: "This taskforce, which will include representatives from the BMA, provides a welcome opportunity to examine the delivery of patient care under the Working Time Directive.
"We need to look at how working patterns affect patient safety and continuity of care, and where the opportunities lie for improvement.
"We will also examine how we ensure all doctors have enough time for training. For junior doctors this means protected time for learning and professional development . For consultants this means having protected time to supervise junior doctors and assure the quality of patient care."
Dean Royles, chief executive of NHS Employers and the NHS Confederation, said: "It's vital that this issue has a strong input from employers, who have to comply with these regulations.
"We will be emphasising the role of good workforce planning and sensible rules in making the working time directive manageable. NHS Employers and the NHS Confederation very much welcome the opportunity to contribute."