European Working Time Directive | Association of Anaesthetists

European Working Time Directive

European Working Time Directive

The European Working Time Directive (EWTD) (and later the Regulation) – and it's implications for the NHS – has long been a concern for the Association and the Trainee Committee. 

The timeline below looks at the key points related to this issue. 

As the UK looks to leave the EU, we'll continue to make the issue of safe working hours and adequate time for training a priority for the organisation.

September 2009

The Trainee Committee issued a statement to members to address some of the confusion around the Regulation and how it was being implemented. Although it became UK law in 1998, the implementation of the regulations for junior medical staff was delayed until August 2009 with the phased introduction of first a 52 hour and then a 48 hour maximum working week. 

In the statement, the Committee stated it agreed in principle with the aims of the legislation – protecting doctors and promoting patient safety by removing the culture of long hours. However, they did express concern at how the implementation of the regulations had been planned and the way they were being applied. They also stated they had concerns about the possible impact on training. 

August 2014

In 2014, the Department of Health carried out a review of the impact of the Directive on the NHS. The Association and the Trainee Committee used this opportunity to raise a number of issues with the then Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt MP.

Points raised in the letter included:

  • Issues identifying training time that was not working time
  • How to raise awareness of the voluntary opt-out
  • Concern about the lack of representation for anaesthesia among the taskforce looking at working patterns
  • Emphasised the importance of maintaining the 48 hour working week and not returning to old working patterns 

September 2014

In September a reply was received from the Department of Health to say the points raised by the Association and the Trainee Committee would be taken on board and would feed into the review of the Directive being carried out by the European Commission.  

December 2014

The Association and the Trainee Committee used an article in the BMJ to argue against government plans to increase working hours for trainees and make the case that it was possible to fit training within these hours.

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