HCL Highlights Doctors' Struggle
Healthcare Locums the specialist health and social care agency, says it is seeing rocketing demand for locum and permanent placement doctors from Trusts struggling to prepare for the European Working Time Directive, which limits the number of hours trainee doctors can work to 48 per week.
The Directive, which is due to come into force on 1 August 2009, poses another challenge for an already over-stretched healthcare workforce only a few months after the Government imposed stringent new qualification requirements on overseas doctors working in the UK. Changes to the Highly Skilled Migration Programme, introduced earlier this year, means that only those who have a master's degree can apply for a visa to work in the UK, in a move which has been heavily criticised by the British Medical Association.
HCL echoes the BMA's concerns as it believes that greater emphasis on international recruitment drives for doctors outside the UK is the only way to address the staffing squeeze which will result from imposing strict limits on doctors' working hours.
Kate Bleasdale, HCL's Executive Vice Chairman, said: "The European Working Time Directive is intended to regulate the working hours of all workers in the European Union, which, while laudable in its aims, does not take into account the realities of working in a hospital, especially in an emergency care environment. You cannot make an emergency situation conform to a 48 hour per week rota limit. "This is a huge concern for our clients, and we are seeing accelerating demand for locum staff in the run-up to 1 August as some Trusts anticipate a big staffing shortfall once the Directive kicks in."