Hours regulation 'harming patients'
European law brought in to improve patient safety and the working lives of doctors has "failed spectacularly", surgeons have warned.
Patients in NHS hospitals are in fact much less safe than they were a year ago, and the situation is getting worse, according to a survey from the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS).
It was published on the first anniversary of the implementation of the European Working Time Regulations (EWTR), which limit doctors to 48 hours a week.
The survey of 980 surgeons and surgical trainees covered all nine surgical specialties and all Strategic Health Authorities in England as well as surgeons based in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, and compared responses to a similar survey undertaken last year.
It reveals that 80% of consultant surgeons and two thirds of surgical trainees (66%) say that patient care has deteriorated under the directive. This compares with 72% of consultants and 59% of trainees consulted in October 2009.
Two thirds of trainees (65%) say their training time has decreased - a quarter more than in October 2009 (41%).
More than a quarter of senior surgeons are no longer able to be involved in all of the key stages of a patient's care (18% in October 2009).
Two thirds of trainees have reported a decline in training time in the operating theatre and 61% of consultants report that they are operating without trainee assistance more frequently since the EWTR was introduced.
Some 41% of consultants and 37% of trainees reported 'inadequate handovers' (37%/ 29% last October).
Almost three quarters of trainees (72%) and two thirds of consultants (61%) are consistently working more than the permitted hours, and more than half of trainees say they cover rota gaps which result in them working in excess of their contracted hours (44% last October).