Jim Cunningham – 2016 Parliamentary Question to the Department of Health

The below Parliamentary question was asked by Jim Cunningham on 2016-01-12.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health, if he will commission a review into the working hours of junior doctors; and if he will make a statement.

Ben Gummer

The Working Time Regulations provide the same protection to junior doctors as to other workers, limiting working hours to an average of 48 per week. Junior doctors, as is the case for all workers, may choose to opt-out of the Working Time Regulations and work beyond the limits; however, where they do so, their contract imposes a limit of 56 hours per week.

The vast majority – 99% – of junior doctors are working within these current limits. Under the proposed new contract the limits on average weekly hours will continue to apply and there will also be limits that go further than the legislation including a cap on the maximum number of hours that junior doctors can work in any one week – the legislation permits 91 hours but the contract will limit this to 72. Under the new contract junior doctors will have work schedules setting out their duties, expected training opportunities and contracted hours. These will be regularly reviewed and junior doctors will be able to request a review at any time. There will be a system of exception reporting where work varies regularly and/or significantly from the work schedule. Junior doctors will also be able to report exceptions and concerns to a guardian of safe working for each organisation – whose appointment will be agreed with the British Medical Association – and request a review if they are not treated as promised.

1% (around 500) of junior doctors has working patterns that are in breach of the current contractual limits on hours or rest. The new contract will bring an end to that.