European Working Time Directive needs common sense solution, says NHS
- Published on Tuesday, 15 November 2011 11:49
- Posted by Scott Buckler
The NHS European Office has announced the opening of negotiations between employer and trade union representatives at European level regarding revisions to the working time directive legislation
NHS European Office director Elisabetta ZanonThe European Working Time Directive requires "urgent and common sense" changes if it is to reflect the modern working arrangements of the NHS.
That is the message from the NHS Confederation's European Office ahead of negotiations between employer and trade union representatives at European level regarding revisions to the legislation. The negotiations present an opportunity to hammer out an agreement on behalf of those who work at and manage the coalface, and who understand the real-life practical implications of their proposals. Talks are expected to cover key issues for the NHS such as the way on-call time is counted and rest periods are enforced.
The NHS Confederation says it is essential the proposed changes address problems with the way the legislation is currently implemented. It says the way the law currently stands can have an adverse impact on working arrangements, staffing levels and patient safety. It can affect continuity of care because of frequent handovers, and trainee doctors having less time to learn valuable skills.
The NHS Confederation is a member of the negotiating body representing public sector employers across Europe. Through its European Office, it speaks for the NHS to influence negotiations. It says the European Working Time Directive must reconcile the need for workers to have adequate rest, with the need for flexibility about how working time rules are implemented on the ground.
The NHS Confederation says any agreement reached must take the specific requirements of essential round-the-clock services such as healthcare into consideration and allow the NHS to implement the legislation more flexibly, taking account of local needs and practices, while at the same time ensuring the health and safety of the workforce.
Elisabetta Zanon, director of the NHS Confederation’s European Office, said:
“This legislation needs a modern approach that fits in with the way our health service works. The NHS provides a large chunk of its care on a 24-hour basis. So it is only right that there should be flexibility about how the rules are applied.
“Patient safety must always be the top priority of the NHS. It is in no one's interest to have overworked, tired doctors. Politicians have tried and failed so far to find a sensible solution, and these negotiations provide an opportunity for people who are in touch with the issues on a daily basis to reach a common-sense agreement, delivering the best outcome for staff and patients, and allowing the NHS to provide a 21st century service."
The NHS Confederation's European Office also says healthcare staff should maintain the right to seek an opt-out from the 48-hour ceiling on working hours so that the NHS can provide a properly staffed service and safe continuity of care.