Call to suspend the Working Time Directive in light of swine flu epidemic
“Concerns had been expressed for many years that entrusting health care to over-worked and tired practitioners was inappropriate and should not be a practice allowed to continue. However, that the sizeable further reduction in doctors' working hours should come at a time when the country is facing a likely flu epidemic is an unfortunate co-incidence, to say the least. European requirements would have allowed the Government to postpone this reduction in maximum hours to 48 until 2012 and indeed some NHS bodies have recently been given extra time to adjust to shorter working hours . So far as other NHS bodies are concerned, there is no sign that the Government will seek to move the 1 August date. Instead, should the epidemic progress to the extent and in the way that is anticipated (albeit this not certain) it seems more likely the contingencies built in to the Working Time Regulations may be called in to operation. The Regulations already make express provision for weekly hours to be averaged out over a longer period and for rest periods to be adjusted in the event of unforeseeable circumstances or where continuity requires. The reality of lower working hours for doctors may yet prove unachievable therefore, despite the pending change in the law.”
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