The Working Time (Amendment) Regulations 2009 came into force on 1 August 2009 enabling named NHS services to derogate from the 48-hour working week for a further 2-year period in order to assist them to scale down junior doctors' working hours.
Services that are granted derogation will be allowed to plan for a 52-hour week between 2009 and 2011 (exceptionally until 2012) until they can achieve the average 48-hour week. The services which have been granted derogation include those delivering 24-hour immediate patient care, supra specialist services and units in rural and isolated areas.
Meanwhile the Department of Health has confirmed that the majority of junior doctors’ rotas will be compliant with the European Working Time Directive by 1 August 2009 and the vast majority of junior doctors in the UK should therefore be working an average 48-hour working week.
August is the start of the period of annual change-over for medical training programmes. The Department of Health has confirmed that this, alongside the changes to accommodate the Working Time Directive, may bring additional pressures on services this year. It will be working with strategic health authorities over the next few weeks to seek assurance of the resilience of services in managing the change-over this year. As requested by the Secretary of State, Medical Education England are working with stakeholders to identify areas where changes to medical training might be necessary as a consequence of reduced working hours.
The derogation was secured after months of debate at the European Union over the opt-out of the 48-hour working week. Intense pressure was applied by the UK, Germany, Holland and other EU member states that take advantage of it particularly in the provision of healthcare.