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Friday, 8 May 2009

Concern over readiness for EWTD in the Welsh NHS deepens

My concern about the effects from the implementation of the EWTD (European Working Time Directive) weren’t just confirmed at BMA Cymru Wales’ recent Policy day on the matter – they grew a whole lot deeper.

The Directive puts a limit on the working week of 48 hours for all employed doctors, including junior doctors, and it must be implemented by Trusts in full, no later than 1st August this year. Junior doctors were excluded from the original legislation because of the nature of their training, and the limit of 48 hours was to be phased in.

The deadline is fast approaching and despite the fact Trusts have had (literally) years to prepare for it, to say that we are still some way from being ready to move to a reduced working week, and thus ready to ensure essential protection for doctors and patients, is a massive understatement. This was highlighted by the Wales Audit Office just a few weeks ago.

A number of key messages came out of the Policy day, including drastic junior shortages, compounded by insufficient numbers of consultants to fulfill requirements of services to patients whilst at the same time trying to provide the dedicated and comprehensive training and support juniors need.

Also, members, with frontline-delivery experience, suggested a number of solutions in order for Wales to prepare and to cope with the implementation of EWTD. BMA Cymru, as the voice of doctors in Wales, will be taking these up with the Health Minister and with Welsh NHS Trusts in the next few weeks and as we approach the August deadline.

But with the situation already dire and morale amongst junior doctors at an all time low, without central support and adequate preparation from Trusts there is a significant threat to the current standard of medical training, to the delivery of healthcare provision, and to the quality of patient care as a result.

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