The impact of the European working time directive on training and service provision has been a regular feature of advice from officials to the relevant Secretary of State since the directive was first introduced by the European Commission in November 1993.
Trusts are being supported to implement the working time directive for their junior doctors in training and many have already done so. The aim is that the maximum number of services, consistent with patient safety, are supported to achieve compliance.
In January the Secretary of State for Health notified the European Commission of concerns that a number of hospital services delivering 24-hour immediate patient care, some supra-specialist services, and small, remote and rural units may need more time to achieve full compliance with the requirement for an average 48-hour working week. The notification set out the Government's intention to take up the option of a limited derogation under Article 17(5) of the European working time directive for services identified as needing more time. Derogation would allow services to plan for up to a 52-hour average week, up to August 2011 (exceptionally until 2012). This flexibility represents good National Health Service management.