Intended for healthcare professionals


The European working time directive for doctors in training

BMJ 2001; 323 doi: (Published 01 December 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;323:1266

We will need more doctors and better organisation to comply with the law

  1. Trevor Pickersgill (, chairperson, junior doctors committee
  1. BMA House, London WC1H 9JP

    On 1 August 2004 junior doctors in the National Health Service and other healthcare systems throughout Europe will no longer be excluded from the provisions of the European Working Time Directive.1 Their working hours will then be limited by law, first to 58 hours a week and then, by 2009, to 48 hours. This will demand even more profound changes for the NHS than seen so far in the long march for better working conditions for junior hospital doctors.

    The original directive on working time became law in 1993, but doctors in training were excluded, along with workers in the road, air, rail, sea, and inland waterway industries. The British government of the time challenged the validity of the directive as health and safety law, but it was confirmed in 1996 as such by the European Court of Justice.2 There is overwhelming …

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