(PRWeb UK) July 23, 2009
The image of the dishevelled, tired and overworked junior doctor has been going through something of a transformation in recent years. The European Working Time Directive (EWTD) originally became enshrined in British law - and applicable to the majority of British workers - during October 1998. Junior doctors, however, were not included until May 2000, when they were allowed to work 58 hours a week. This was reduced to 56 hours a week in 2007 - and now, under the new rules which take affect from 1 August 2009 - junior doctors will be bound by the maximum 48-hour week.
Is it good news, doctor?
This is widely being seen as good news for junior doctors, and has the full support of the British Medical Association, who announced its view that "better-rested doctors provide better patient care - and the ability of doctors to learn is vastly improved when they are well rested." In addition, a recent report by the Conference of Postgraduate Medical Education Deans (COPMED) shows that it is possible to continue to ensure that trainee doctors receive high quality training if all available training opportunities are open to them and are used.
A recent article published in People Management stated that the NHS Employers organisation has played down concerns that junior doctors' training will suffer as a result of the directive coming into play - instead, it said: "Increasing the flexibility in doctors' training is the way to gain experience not a reliance on a "retrograde" long-hours culture." All interesting stuff - but it begs one question. When hospital doctors aren't doing shifts and are away learning - who will be filling in the gaps on their rotas?
Good quality agency staff
The answer may lie in the additional use of good quality locum doctors. Robert Stiff is managing director of Team24, a niche recruitment consultancy that places highly skilled locum doctors - from specialist registrars to consultants - in hospitals and GP surgeries across the UK. He said: "We're already helping to fill-in gaps in rotas with good quality, specialised hospital doctors - and we've seen a huge growth over the past four years in demand for highly-skilled hospital doctors, pretty much across the UK. We foresee that this is an area that will keep growing - so we're pulling out all the stops now to recruit excellent, highly skilled locum hospital doctors so we're ready to meet that demand once 1 August arrives."
So far the directive doesn't seem to be having any negative effects at all on recruitment. In 2008 the number of junior doctors joining the NHS grew by 4.3 per cent. But the more highly skilled shifts still need filling. Robert Stiff MD Team24 added: "The Department of Health has said that meeting the requirements of the directive will give hospital trusts a great opportunity to modernise, provide improved treatment for patients, a better patient experience, and a better working environment for staff. At Team24, we see niche healthcare recruitment consultancy as playing a very important part in supporting that vision - and delivering those improvements."
Visit Team24 at http://www.team24.co.uk
Notes to editors - some EWTD facts and figures