Junior doctors warn hours target is at risk

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JUNIOR hospital doctors said yesterday that the Government had grossly underestimated the number still working more than 83 hours a week, and warned that the next reduced-hours target was in jeopardy.

A Department of Health analysis put at 91 the number of junior doctors working more than 83 hours, but a British Medical Association survey published yesterday said that the number was 1,200. There are 30,000 junior doctors; 12,200 responded to the survey.

The agreed target date to get hours below 83 was the end of last year. Now junior doctors are concerned that hospitals and trusts will not meet the next target - a maximum of 72 hours a week - by its December deadline. 'The discrepancy between the Government's figures and ours is striking. But what is more worrying is that there are close to 10,000 still working an average 72 hours a week,' Dr Paul McLaren, deputy chairman of the BMA Junior Doctors' Committee, said. 'With junior doctors working six-month contracts, the new jobs start in August. This leaves only a few months.'

Dr Brian Mawhinney, Minister for Health, said in a statement that the Government was committed to the junior doctors' New Deal agreement and promised more money shortly, in addition to the pounds 67m made available so far, to bring hours down.