HC Deb 07 December 1981 vol 14 c307W
Mr. Haynes

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what is his policy towards the recommendation from the Social Services Committee that the maximum hours of junior doctors should be reduced to 80 a week.

Dr. Vaughan

We will be responding formally to the Committee's recommendation in due course.

The objective of an 80-hour limit on contracted hours—including on-call time—has been agreed policy for some years. I do accept that the present hours of work of some junior doctors are sometimes excessive, but these long hours arise from the need to provide round-the-clock medical cover, and substantial reduction will be difficult to achieve without significant changes in the organisation of medical work in hospitals. Our plans to double the number of consultants will help to bring these about in the longer term, but I accept that additional action is required more urgently.

Any steps we take must ensure that the needs of patients are protected, and must take account of the requirements of the bodies responsible for postgraduate medical education. As a first step, therefore, I have asked the Chief Medical Officer to call a conference for 12 February to seek the views of all interested parties, to identify the obstacles and to find ways of making progress. Representatives of senior and junior hospital staff, the Royal Colleges and Faculties and NHS authorities will be invited. I expect the conference's findings to form the basis for early action.