The General Medical Council (GMC) has published its report The Impact of the Working Time Regulations on Medical Education and Training.
The European Working Time Regulation (EWTR) was implemented in the NHS in 2009 and imposed a 48-hour limit on the amount of work that trainee doctors could undertake each week.
This restriction was designed to improve doctors’ work-life balance but also meant that trainees have fewer hours to train than before, leading to concerns that they will take longer to qualify.
The new GMC report reveals the benefits of the EWTR but in some cases, doctors were found to have been working harder and under more stressful conditions. Issues around the intensity of workload, staffing rotas and continuity of care have been identified and need to be addressed.
Dr Ted Adams, Chair of the RCOG Trainees committee said, “We support the limits imposed by the EWTR. For our specialty, even with 24-hour consultant working, life-changing decisions should only be made by doctors who are not tired. Returning to the old working patterns is untenable since they will result in unsafe services for women and their babies.
“Poor rota planning and poor training are the root cause of trainees' dissatisfaction, rather than the number of hours they work. Equally, trainees should not be used to prop up the out-of-hours and weekend service. We have shown we are committed and eager to learn and more creative ways of training are needed in hospitals throughout the working day.”
RCOG President Dr Tony Falconer said, “This report highlights the pressures that our trainees face. Patient safety is an integral part of quality and trainees will struggle to provide clinically effective care if they are exhausted.
“It is unfair to expect anyone to work long hours on top of all the training and studying they have to do. The RCOG is looking at ways to mitigate the demands of the EWTR while also ensuring that trainees received appropriate support. We have long campaigned for consultant-led care in our labour wards but this is not the only solution. Other schemes such as more e-learning and mentoring have been shown to be helpful and are being trialled.”
15 February 2013