Junior doctors' 100-hour weeks 'put patient safety at risk'

Survey of 1,600 final-year medical students reveals demoralised and fearful 'champions'

Charlie Cooper
Monday 22 July 2013 18:32
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Junior doctors have warned that they are being left exhausted by 100-hour weeks and 12-day rotations that put patient safety at risk.

A survey of more than 1,600 junior doctors and final-year medical students revealed many under extreme pressure, often working over-time, demoralised and fearful that tiredness was affecting their ability to do their jobs.

The British Medical Association (BMA) said that junior doctors were under "intolerable pressure". The Ipsos-MORI survey came ahead of negotiations with the NHS over a new contract for doctors and dentists in training.

Despite the European Working Time Directive (EWTD), which brought in an average 48-hour working week, many junior doctors are working far longer hours as their working time is "averaged out" over the month, the survey found.

One junior doctor from Scotland told the survey: "My average working week may have complied [with the EWTD] but on occasion, especially on nights, I would have worked over 100 hours in one week which was not safe in the end."

Newly qualified doctors begin working in the NHS from the beginning of August. Last week, the medical director of the NHS, Sir Bruce Keogh, singled out junior doctors and student nurses for praise in his review of 14 under-performing hospitals. However, he warned that they were "not being valued or listened to" and were receiving "inadequate supervision and support".

Dr Ben Molyneux, chair of the BMA's junior doctor committee said: "It is of great concern that junior doctors are being forced to work excessive hours and are often under intolerable pressure in order to ensure patient safety... The Keogh Review highlighted that despite the lack of support and value placed on junior doctors, they remain the best champions for their patients and this must not be lost to the growing sense of frustration they feel."

Dean Royles, chief executive of the NHS Employer's organisation, said that the current contract was "no longer fit for purpose". NHS Employers is waiting for a mandate from the four UK governments to proceed with contract negotiations in the autumn.

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