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Working Time Directive

Volume 707: debated on Tuesday 3 February 2009


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, in the light of the statement by Mr John Black, President of the Royal College of Surgeons, in the Sunday Telegraph of 18 January on the effect of the Working Time Directive on the National Health Service, they will inform the European Union that they will not implement the directive. [HL853]

The National Health Service has made excellent progress on implementing the European Working Time Directive (EWTD). Already, around two-thirds of doctors in training already work 48 hours a week or less. Based on estimates from the NHS we expect that by August this will have risen to around 96 per cent. The department and the NHS remain committed to implementing the EWTD for trainee doctors.

Patient safety and the quality of patient care come first for everyone involved. We are working with the medical profession and the NHS to support those services which have yet to implement the directive, while ensuring that service quality is the top priority.

For a very small number of specific services at local level, implementation is extremely difficult. This could, for example, be due to service reconfigurations, or to service isolation. In this small number of cases, the department will apply to the European Commission for derogation, which will allow this small number of local services an extra four hours in addition to the minimum 48. This element of flexibility represents good NHS management.

We understand those in the medical profession who are concerned about the quality of training for doctors in some specialties. We are committed to ensuring the quality of training for NHS doctors and want to work with the profession to see how best to do so.