Swine Flu Pandemic May Delay Implementation of Working Hours Law

Swine Flu Pandemic May Delay Implementation of Working Hours Law

From 1 August, junior doctors will no longer be required to work more than 48
hours a week. 

At least, that’s the plan.  This week, The Independent reported that the
Royal College of Surgeons wants the new restriction on working hours to be
postponed if the NHS shows any signs of buckling under the strain of swine

About 100,000 people a week in the UK are being diagnosed with the virus and
the RCS fears the NHS might collapse if healthcare staff fall ill and have to
take time off work as a result of dealing with infected patients.

However, The Independent quotes a spokesman for the Department of Health as saying: 

“Doctors, nurses and other healthcare staff can work longer hours when they
need to.  During national emergencies there are special provisions and
flexibility within the regulations for emergency situations.  Medical directors
have plans in place to ensure NHS organisations are able to meet the needs of
patients and that the hours doctors and other healthcare staff work are balanced
over a period.  Medical directors will carefully review the local situation as
the current pandemic flu outbreak continues.”

UK Working Time Regulations

The UK Working Time Regulations took effect in 1998.  Under the
Regulations, a person does not have to work more than 48 hours a week, unless
they choose to do so, or work in a sector with its own special rules.

Junior doctors were initially excluded from the Regulations.  That changed on
1 August 2004, when the hours of “doctors in training” were restricted to a
maximum of 58 hours per week.  At the end of this week, maximum working hours
will be reduced still further — to 48 hours — to match the rules in place for
most other workers in the UK. 

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