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EU Legislation

European Working Time Directive (March 2014)

The European Working Time Directive (EWTD) is part of the EU health and safety legislation which lays down requirements in relation to working hours, arrangements for night workers, rest periods and annual leave.

While individual doctors can choose to opt-out of the working time regulations, NHS trusts cannot force staff to opt-out, such that rotas must be planned to comply with these regulations. The reduction in hours for doctors and surgeons has meant therefore that NHS trusts have had to make changes in how they staff hospitals.

The College's background briefing sets out the impact of these changes and how the law can be altered to improve surgery and patient care.

In October 2013, Professor Norman Williams, President of the Royal College of Surgeons, was asked to chair an independent taskforce on the implementation of the Working Time Directive and its impact on the NHS and health professionals.

For further reading, see the final report of the independent working time regulations taskforce and the accompanying Chair's letter to the Secretary of State.

See the EWTD timeline for key events in the legislation's progress.


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