Junior doctors defend EWTD after Cameron attack
23 January 2013
Junior doctors leaders have defended working-time rules after the prime minister used them as an argument against European harmonisation.
The BMA said trainees should not be used as pawns in political arguments about EU powers.
Giving his long-awaited speech on the EU today, David Cameron said a single market should not mean all aspects of life had to be same across member states.
He cited the European Working Time Directive, which limits doctors to an average 48-hour working week, as an example of why it was 'neither right or necessary' to harmonise everything.
He said: 'Let us not be misled by the fallacy that a deep and workable single market requires everything to be harmonised, to hanker after some unattainable and infinitely level playing field.'
'We cannot harmonise everything. For example, it is neither right nor necessary to claim that the integrity of the single market, or full membership of the EU requires the working hours of British hospital doctors to be set in Brussels irrespective of the views of British parliamentarians and practitioners.'
BMA junior doctors committee chair Ben Molyneux responded: 'Junior doctors have become pawns in the political argument about the powers of the EU. Before the introduction of the EWTD it was not uncommon for junior doctors to work 100-hour weeks. The directive seeks to protect doctors and patients as there is clear evidence that tired people make more mistakes.'
Dr Molyneux also pointed towards recent independent reviews that concluded increasing working hours was not a viable solution.
'However, there have been problems with the implementation of the directive where some employers have failed to deliver good training in a 48-hour week.
'However, the 2010 Time for Training review concluded that these problems will not be solved by either increasing hours or lengthening training programmes. The focus on overturning the directive is an unnecessary distraction. We should instead concentrate on improving training to ensure doctors can deliver high quality patient care.'
The BMA will continue to engage with the EU institutions and other key stakeholders from across Europe to ensure that its members’ interests are reflected in ongoing negotiations about professional and employment issues.