Intended for healthcare professionals

Observations Border Crossing

Wising up to Europe

BMJ 2009; 338 doi: (Published 18 March 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b1090
  1. Tessa Richards, assistant editor, BMJ
  1. trichards{at}

    As the influence of EU law on health care grows, so does the case for playing an active part in shaping it

    Few doctors need reminding of the impact of European Union law. Hospitals throughout the United Kingdom are struggling to devise rotas that meet the stringent requirements of the “48 hour” EU Working Time Directive, while debate continues on the wisdom of complying with it (BMJ 2008;337:a942, doi:10.1136/bmj.39541.443611.80).

    How times have changed. In the decade after the UK’s entry to the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1973 many junior doctors worked a 100 hour week. The idea that law originating in the European Commission’s employment rights programme might reduce this number never entered our heads. Or that legislation rolled out to create a single European market for goods, services, capital, and people would (language skills permitting) give us the opportunity to ply our trade across national borders.

    If we had the energy to think about “Brussels” at all, the tendency was to mock its Kafkaesque institutions peopled by shadowy figures, speaking an Esperanto of their own, bent on harmonising the dimensions of vegetables …

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