Thursday, January 22, 2009

Hospital surgeons face crisis

A European cap on working hours could have a major impact on surgeons in Bournemouth and Poole.

Hospitals and other public services could be hit hard when the European Working Time Directive (WTD) is fully implemented next August.

President of the Royal College of Surgeons, John Black, said "the effects on patient care in the NHS are potentially disastrous."

From August, surgeons will be restricted to working a 48-hour week. However, Mr Black said this would lead to inadequate emergency cover overnight and at weekends and that the government should discuss an opt-out.

He also said the proposals would lead to "much less experienced trainees" to work alongside surgeons.

MEP for Bournemouth and South West England, Neil Parish said "some 14 member states already use the opt-out or are considering using it. So in reality it is unlikely that this cap will come into force in the UK."

A survey of hospital trusts last November showed only 18% were meeting the 48-hour limit outlined in the European Working Time Directive.

Spokespersons for Bournemouth and Poole Hospitals were unavailable for comment. However, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health confirmed the European directive "will need to cover surgeons" from August.

Given the current economic crisis and rising unemployment figures, MEP Neil Parish suggested, "If people want to work and employers are prepared to pay them for the extra work, why should the state step in and stop them from doing so?"

He went on to say he opposed the 48-hour cap for a number of reasons, "including the effect this may have on NHS staff and on retained fire-fighters."

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