'Suspend European Working Time Directive' for swine flu call

The government should suspend reducing hospital doctors' weekly working hours from 56 to 48 because of fears that hospitals will be overwhelmed by swine flu, according to the Royal College of Surgeons.

By Joanne Ellul

John Black, president of the Royal College of Surgeons, said: ‘We have consistently warned the government that 48-hour working leaves the NHS with dangerously low levels of cover, as well as damaging training and harming patient safety.'

The college has called for the European Working Time Directive, which reduces hospital doctors' working hours and starts on 1 August, to be suspended.

With about 100,000 people a week in the UK being diagnosed with swine flu, there is the fear is that the health service might collapse if healthcare staff fall ill and take time off work as a result of dealing with infected patients or caring for sick children.

‘If there is a pandemic and in consequence longer hours are required, we hope the government will have the political courage to suspend the European Working Time Directive, and not fudge the issue,' Mr Black added.


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