Hospital planning ‘a ticking time bomb’

More than 50 per cent of English hospitals are unprepared for next year’s 48-hour working week deadline, according to research by the Royal College’s of Anaesthetists (RCoA) and Surgeons (RCS).

Only forty-nine per cent of anesthetic and 42 per cent of surgical rotas are in compliance to meet the European Working Time Directive (WTD) deadline, the college found.

Eighteen per cent of Trusts said their surgery staff will meet the target and 33 per cent of anaesthetists will comply with the WTD.

“This is a ticking time bomb. Its essential we get a thorough assessment to see what the scale of this problem really is,” said Liberal Democrat health spokesmen Norman Lamb.

“Ministers must bring forward plans to ensure that we don’t end up in a crisis next August.”

Surgeons and anesthetists are scarce and medical centers are short staffed for coverage of the new hours.

Hospital funding is also running low, with less than 15 per cent having set budgets in agreement to meet the August deadline. Patient’s safety and medical training might also be compromised due to the lack of funding.

“The report highlights some of the challenges trusts face in complying with WTD 2009, but it also show that the challenges can be and have been met, ” said Sue Dean, director of Workforce Projects Team.

“If there is one lesson to be drawn from the data presented in this report it is that getting working hours down while offering proper, safe patient care and retaining medical training is not straightforward and takes time,” said Royal College of Surgeons president John Black.