The West Somerset coroner Michael Rose observed that these cases hoisted ‘clear warning signs’ over the disastrous impact of the European Working Time Directive on the running of hospitals.No doubt there are measures that hospitals could and should take to mitigate the impact of these directives, such as hiring more doctors, but such changes take time.
This directive, implemented for all junior doctors a year ago, forbids them from working more than a 48-hour week — even though this has caused chaos in doctors’ rotas and cut short vital medical training.
The directive ostensibly aims to secure a better work/life balance for a range of employees. But its rigidity has all but wrecked basic standards of hospital medical care.
In particular, it has stopped junior doctors from being routinely attached to a particular consultant or team. Instead, they go from one team to another, providing medical cover.
The result is that the all-important requirement of continuity of care has been destroyed, since these doctors are parachuted in to treat patients of whose histories they are ignorant. Patients’ needs now matter less than the doctors’ legal requirement to clock off.
Such lethal idiocy illustrates the working of the bureaucratic mind at its most blindingly rigid and obtuse.
What may work well for, say, long-distance lorry drivers proves a disaster when applied to a profession which needs to deliver continuity of care, as well as sufficient experience to train doctors to the necessary standard.
An obviously more sensible approach is to let individuals choose their own life/work balance. They are the only ones with first hand experience of their life, and their work.
Labour laws such as the Working Time Directive always do more harm than good. They are especially odious when imposed not by Westminster, but by Brussels.