Trainee doctors should ignore EU rules and work LONGER, says Britain's top surgeon
European Directive limits doctors to a 48-hour week with defined rest periodsFrequent patient handovers between teams could lead to mistakes in care, warns Prof Normal WilliamsAdded it did not give enough time for trainingBut junior doctors' representative warned scrapping rule could see a return to 100-hour weeks
09:21 GMT, 28 January 2013
09:21 GMT, 28 January 2013
Exhausted: Before the European Working Time Directive, some junior doctors were working 100-hour weeks. But some experts have said trainees were now working too little
Trainee doctors should be prepared to breach European restrictions on working hours or 'should go off and do something else', says Britain's leading surgeon.
EU rules say doctors shouldn't work longer than 48 hours a week and have at least one day off every seven days.
However, Professor Norman Williams, the president of the Royal College of Surgeons, said patient care may already be suffering as a result.
He said patients were now seeing up to five different teams of medics a day due to shift patterns and frequent handovers could lead to mistakes.
Prof Williams, who is a consultant surgeon at Barts and the London NHS Trust, said he told trainees: 'No matter what the European Working Time Directive says you are professionals, you have a duty to your patients.
'You cannot have a clock in and clock off attitude.'
He told The Daily Telegraph that a doctor's overriding interest should be making people better.
'My own trainees do break the working time directive,' he said, adding that most good trainees followed this path.
He has the support of a number of MPs, such as Charlotte Leslie, of Bristol North West, who argues the EU rules does not allow junior doctors enough time to train, and prevents planning for emergencies such as flu pandemics.
Last week Prime Minister David Cameron also appeared to support this view in a major speech about Britain's place in the EU.
Cameron said: 'It is neither right nor necessary to claim that the integrity of the
single market, or full membership of the EU requires the working hours
of British hospital doctors to be set in Brussels irrespective of the
views of British parliamentarians and practitioners.'
Professor Norman Williams said doctors 'cannot have a clock in and clock off attitude'
However, junior doctors leaders have defended working-time rules, adding that trainees should not be used as pawns in political arguments about EU powers.
BMA junior doctors committee chair Ben Molyneux, said: 'Before the introduction of the EWTD it was not uncommon for junior doctors to work 100-hour weeks.
'The directive seeks to protect doctors and patients as there is clear evidence that tired people make more mistakes.'
Dr Molyneux admitted some NHS employers had failed to deliver good training within a 48-hour week.
However, he added: 'The 2010 Time for Training review concluded that these problems will not be solved by either increasing hours or lengthening training programmes.
'The focus on overturning the directive is an unnecessary distraction. We should instead concentrate on improving training to ensure doctors can deliver high quality patient care.'