Juniors' hours 'no shorter'

Click to follow
The Independent Online
HUNDREDS of hospitals are set to defy the Government's deadline for cutting junior doctors' dangerously long working hours to a maximum of 83 hours a week, the British Medical Association said yesterday, writes Judy Jones.

Although the contracted hours worked have been brought down in many areas, some juniors are angry that the actual time they spend on duty or on call has barely changed since the Government's programme to tackle long hours began two years ago.

The BMA has evidence that some juniors on surgery wards are still working, or on duty, for 104 hours in a five-day period, sometimes with no facilities for breakfast or evening meals. In one English region, almost four out of ten juniors have less than four hours' sleep during duty periods and three out of ten have less than two hours' sleep.

In a statement, the BMA said the breaches of the Government's 'New Deal' were 'particularly regrettable' in view of the great strides made by many hospitals in implementing the guidelines.

Virginia Bottomley, Secretary of State for Health, said last night: 'I am determined to drive forward our policy of reducing long hours worked by junior doctors. We have made great progress. In September 1990, there were 13,000 junior doctors working more than 83 hours per week. Now we have just a handful. I shall continue to press all those concerned to achieve the goal that no junior in a hard-pressed post should be contracted for more than 72 hours a week by the end of 1994.

'We have already advised employing authorities in the NHS that improvements in the living conditions of junior doctors should also be a high priority.'

However, Edwin Borman, leader of Britain's 24,000 junior doctors, said: 'The gap between ministerial commitment and local implementation of the New Deal remains enormous. Insufficient information about the way doctors are actually working is being fed back to the Department of Health.'