27 May 2009
New data from Strategic Health Authorities shows that an overstretched NHS is failing to meet the 48 hour European limit on doctors’ hours and some Trusts are being tempted to introduce dangerous working practices to meet the demands. The Royal College of Surgeons calls for urgent action by the NHS to avoid disaster in August.
The government’s latest data shows that the number of clinical rotas reporting compliance with the European Working Time Directive fell from 78 per cent in March to 72 per cent in April. This comes despite government projections that compliance should have reached 85 per cent by now. There are currently 3000 vacant doctors’ posts in the NHS, with 15 per cent of service doctor posts unfilled, as Trusts need more staff to meet the target. There are not enough doctors in the UK to staff the NHS under working hour restrictions and desperate last-minute attempts to recruit doctors from around the world are failing. The College expects the number of clinical rotas to report compliance to fall further as the August deadline approaches.
“Moving to 48 hour working with current staffing means losing half a million hours of doctor-patient time a year from the NHS* and the NHS is struggling to cope. You only have to look at the recent Healthcare Commission report into the failing Mid-Staffordshire NHS Trust, which found that low staffed surgical rotas was one of the main contributing factors to the breakdown in patient care,” said John Black, President of the Royal College of Surgeons. “The College reported in January that rotas were only being held together by internal locums and were meeting the European regulations on paper alone. It is now becoming apparent the closer we get to the deadline that the Governments predictions on meeting this regulation have been hopelessly optimistic.”
Notes to Editors
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