Kevin Foster – 2016 Parliamentary Question to the Department of Health

The below Parliamentary question was asked by Kevin Foster on 2016-09-09.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what assessment he has made of the potential effect of the proposed new junior doctors’ contract on ensuring safe working hours.

Mr Philip Dunne

The new contract includes stronger limits on working hours and patterns of work and a robust oversight mechanism to ensure that prompt action is taken if needed. This will be an integral part of how trusts meet their statutory obligations to keep staff and patients safe. Required action includes a review of work schedules to ensure safe working, payment for additional work done and fines where the limits in the contract are breached. There are no such protections under the current contract. For instance, at present, junior doctors can be asked to work up to 91 hours a week, up to seven night shifts in a row and every weekend under the current contract. The Guardian of Safe Working Hours will be tasked with ensuring that rotas reflect the hours that juniors work and they are within the new contractual limits.

These limits under the new contract are a maximum of 72 hours per week (compared to 91 currently), and the limit on average weekly hours will remain 48 hours (and be limited to 56 hours where a doctor opts out of the Working Time Regulations).