§ Dr. Roger Thomas
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what progress has so far been achieved in ensuring that junior hospital doctors do not have to work longer than 80 hours per week; and whether the attitude of consultants is obstructing further advances in the working conditions of junior doctors.
§ Dr. Vaughan
The objective of an 80-hour limit on contracted hours—including on-call time—has been agreed with representatives of all hospital doctors: consultants and juniors. The Department has been discussing with the profession how contracted hours can be reduced, and some limited changes in the terms and conditions of service to encourage this were introduced this year. Long hours arise from the need to provide round the clock medical cover, however, and substantial reductions cannot be achieved without a fundamental change in working patterns in hospitals. In the longer term our recently announced intention to increase the number of consultants will help to bring this about by ensuring that a greater proportion of direct patient care will be provided by fully trained practitioners. Meanwhile, with the profession we will continue to search for ways to reduce contracted hours while maintaining adequate cover.