The West Somerset coroner, Michael Rose, has voiced concerns about the effect the European Working Time Directive has on the ability of hospitals to provide sufficient medical cover out of hours.  

His comments came following a hearing into the death of an elderly patient who waited five hours to be seen by a doctor but was dead by the time one arrived at his bedside. He said “I can see the clear warning signs, although I am not going to refer this to Mr Lansley (the Health Secretary) as I think he will already be aware of it”.  

Dr Walker, giving evidence at the inquest, expressed his opinion that the European Directive undoubtedly has an effect on medical training and practices in the UK following changes introduced in 2003 which means that no junior doctor should work more than 56 hours per week.

The coroner’s comments are unlikely to come as a surprise to our readers, but the case does highlight the need to ensure that out of hours medical cover is adequate.