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Doctors: Career Structure

Volume 485: debated on Monday 15 December 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what percentage of on-call time worked by junior doctors was classified as (a) inactive and (b) active at the latest date on which figures are available. (241555)

The inactive and active on-call time categories are included in proposed amendments to the European working time directive (EWTD) that the European Parliament plans to consider on 17 December. The Department does not collect figures on inactive and active time.

Following the SiMAP and Jaeger European Court of Justice Rulings, any time a doctor is required to be on-call in the workplace counts as working time, even if the doctor was inactive or asleep. These rulings have virtually ended resident on-call working for doctors in training because on-call time (counted as working) significantly reduces the remaining time available for medical training and treating patients. Most doctors in training now work shift patterns.

Under the new deal contract for doctors in training, information on working patterns and hours are collected by NHS Employers. The latest figures can be accessed on their website via

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many and what percentage of hospitals have rota gaps; what assessment he has made of the effect of such gaps on junior doctors; and if he will list the hospitals and the departments within them that have rota gaps. (241786)

Local national health service organisations must plan according to their priorities as they are best placed to assess the health needs of their local health community and will commission the required number of training places to develop the workforce to meet those needs. NHS workforce planning is supported by engagement with all key stakeholders, including the medical profession.

We have more doctors in training than ever before, over 46,700, and an increasing number of undergraduate medical students. Consultant numbers have increased year on year since 1997 and now stand at a record high of over 33,600.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) whether active on call time will begin when (a) a doctor receives a call, (b) a doctor responds to a call or (c) a doctor arrives with the patient; and if he will make a statement; (241787)

(2) how (a) inactive and (b) active call time is calculated; and how it will be calculated when the Working Time Directive comes into force with regard to the NHS.

A doctor who receives a work related call is counted as working. The proposed changes to the European Working Time Directive (EWTD), supported by the Council of Ministers, would not change this interpretation.

Guidance on the Working Time Regulations can be found on the Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform's website via:

The “inactive part of on-call time” has been defined as the period during which the on-call worker “has the obligation to be available at the workplace to intervene, at the employer's request, to carry out his activity or duties”, but is not required to carry out his activity or duties. The active time is the period when the worker carries out his activity or duties.

Any changes to the EWTD require the support of both the European Council and the European Parliament under the co-decision process. The Parliament plan to vote on the possible amendments to the Directive on 17 December 2008. Their view will then be passed back to Council for consideration. Member states will have three years from any agreement to implement changes and the United Kingdom would consult openly before so doing.