Quality & Patient Safety

UK: Cuts to trainee surgeons’ hours may threaten patient safety

Patient Safety Monitor: Global Edition, February 3, 2009

The United Kingdom’s Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) have claimed that patients' quality of care is being put at risk after the August 2008 European Working Time (EWT) Directive became mandatory, limiting a junior surgeon’s work hours, according to the Telegraph. The new rule states that junior doctors are no longer allowed to work more than 48 hours per week.

Many junior physicians admit to falsifying the number of working hours they document, recording a lower number of hours than they actually work. The EWT Directive originally meant to increase patient safety by limiting the hours junior physician could work, decreasing medical mistakes due to fatigue. According to The Telegraph, John Black, president of the RCS said that "the immediate effects on patient care in the [National Health Service] are potentially disastrous” because the new directive does not allow junior physicians to spend enough time in surgery to gain proper experience.

A recent survey of more than a thousand surgeons conducted by the Association of Surgeons in Training (ASiT) discovered that more than half the trainees felt pressure to lie about their hours. According to the Telegraph the survey also found two-thirds of junior physicians believed patient care has suffered because of the cutback in hours.

For the entire article on working hours and patient safety, click here.

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