Jack Grimston, reporting in The Sunday Times on 30th March reports: Cap on doctors’ hours costs NHS £750m The nightmare of inadequate training due to lack of exposure to sufficient clinical exposure is imminent…. Enforcing the EUWTD (European working time directive) is attractive to government as it seems to cut down on costs… at the expense of inadequate training.
RULES from the European Union limiting the number of hours that doctors can work are costing the NHS £750m a year, an inquiry by the president of the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) has found.
Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, is seeking to build an alliance of countries to back demands for a renegotiation of the 48-hours-a-week cap on doctors. Germany and Holland are among at least four countries understood to be sympathetic.
The report into the effect of the EU working-time directive on the health service, commissioned from Professor Norman Williams, found:
■ The NHS is spending an extra £750m a year on locum doctors because the regulations mean there are fewer staff doctors available
■ Hospitals are being “stretched too thin, particularly at nights and weekends, with … patient safety being put at risk”
■ 280,000 hours of surgical training are lost every month because of time limits
■ Patients are being seen by up to five different teams of doctors in a single day because of strict rota systems imposed by the rules
■ Doctors starting courses today will lose the equivalent of 128 days of training compared with those who studied before 2009. For some specialisms, including obstetrics and gynaecology, the situation is even worse
■ The rules are “undermining professionalism” by “promoting a culture of clock-watching”.
The report, expected to be sent to Hunt this week, is understood to include
findings from the Royal College of Physicians that nearly 60% of trainees believe that working-time rules worsen the quality of care.
A source close to Hunt said: “Ministers are concerned about the way the directive has interfered with continuity of patient care and the ability of doctors to learn.”
The directive is expected to be one of the areas targeted by David Cameron as he seeks to renegotiate Britain’s EU membership before his planned in-out referendum.
Charlotte Leslie, the Tory MP who co-authored a separate report on the directive for Fresh Start, a group that campaigns for EU reform, said: “Anyone on the ground, particularly in surgery, knows how devastating the directive is but the outside world, particularly politics, hasn’t twigged yet.
“Nearly every EU state is having massive issues with this. They are all trying to find ways to weave around this failing legislation.”
The RCS declined to comment on the report.
Additional reporting: Laura Hughes