The impact of the Working Time Directive on healthcare professionals


An independent taskforce group was commissioned by the Secretary of State for Health in October 2013, to undertake a study on the impact of the Working Time Directive (WTD) on NHS professionals, and how it affects delivery of patient care.

The taskforce group was chaired by the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) and included members from trusts across the NHS, British Medical Association representatives, NHS Employers, Local Education and Training Boards and several other Medical Royal Colleges. The group met between October 2013 and March 2014, calling on trusts for evidence to feed into the report. 

Evidence gathered came from 17 organisations, with 11 individual submissions from experts in their fields. The group also sought legal advice on certain issues. Information on all the evidence gathered can be found in the report, which can be found on the RCS website. The 
report published highlighted three areas that require further work, these are:

  • the impact of the WTD on education and training 
  • the design of hospital systems 
  • the continuity and delivery of patient care.
Based on the above areas that require further work, the report made a number of recommendations, including:

  • NHS trusts should review best practice in the design of working practices and share examples of the successful delivery of patient care and the training of junior doctors
  • the findings of the report will be of relevance to the ongoing contractual negotiations
  • specific challenges faced by specialities, identified by the GMC survey and in the evidence submitted to the taskforce, should be addressed
  • more work should be undertaken to identify ‘service’ and ‘education’ elements in the work of doctors in training.

The Government published a response supporting the report, highlighting that significant change should be considered in future to allow doctors to train and work more flexibly.

Dean Royles also responded with a media statement, stating that “Employers were clear in the review that patient and staff safety are our prime concern. We have no desire to return to excessive working hours which would be bad for patients and for doctors.” 

Further information on the European Working Time Directive, Junior doctors contract negotiations, and the Consultant contract negotiations can be found on our website.

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