HC Deb 11 May 1995 vol 259 cc571-2W
Mr. Peter Atkinson

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many junior doctors and dentists, by region, remain outside the current new deal limits for contracted hours in on-call posts; and if she will make a statement. [24261]

Mr. Malone

The new deal on junior doctors' hours, a copy of which is in the Library, currently requires that no junior doctor or dentist should be contracted for an average of more than 72 hours a week in a hard-pressed post. At 8 February 1995, the returns from the eight regions in England were as follows:

Hard-pressed on-call posts contracted for more than 72 hours a week
Region March 1994 September 1994 February 1995
Northern and Yorkshire 1,433 878 162
Trent 342 175 60
Anglia and Oxford 517 306 189
North Thames 1,094 773 178
South Thames 879 411 95
South and West 452 148 20
West Midlands 529 293 67
North West 1,291 801 0
Total 6,537 3,785 771

Since March 1994 there has been a fall of over 88 per cent., from 6,537 to 771, in the number of hard-pressed on-call posts contracted for more than 72 hours a week. Over 96 per cent. of the present total of 27,669 junior doctors and dentists now comply with the current new deal contracted hours targets.

This is excellent progress, showing that the rate at which we are eliminating these posts more than doubled in the four months to February this year. Hospitals, supported by our task forces, have made enormous strides in confronting the problem of long hours and I am very grateful to them.

While we must remain firmly focused on tackling the hard-core of problem posts remaining, I believe we have now succeeded in establishing a ceiling on contracted hours which will help us to press on with further improvements.

The progress we are making is most encouraging, but there is no room for complacency. We know that more work is still needed to crack the problem and there are still too many juniors who are under pressure to work too long. The Government are absolutely committed to ensuring that juniors get real and lasting benefits from the new deal.

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