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Eurohealth calls for time-out on European Working Time Directive

Europe's junior doctors are becoming shift workers under the European Working Time Directive and health ministers should delay further implementation until the increased safety risks for patients can be addressed, states Professor Roy Pounder in the latest issue of Eurohealth.

In the latest edition of Eurohealth, a publication by LSE Health and the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies, Professor Pounder, lead for the European Working Time Directive, Royal College of Physicians, examines the 2007 European Working Time Directive (EWTD), which was created to alleviate the problems created for doctors by the need for 24 hour healthcare in the NHS. The EWTD expects every junior doctor to work a maximum of 13 hours in every 24 and have 11 hours rest, with a weekly average of 56 hours. This has driven European junior doctors from the traditional pattern of 'on call' working to becoming shift workers.

However, evidence from other sectors indicates that the risk of adverse events and accidents is much greater for night shift workers. Shift working at night increases errors, but the length of shifts and the number of shifts worked in succession are also safety factors.

Pounder calls for a delay in further implementation of the EWTD and puts forward the notion of three overlapping nine hour shifts as one way of countering adverse risks.

This issue is just one of many examined in this edition of Eurohealth. Other issues explored include:

  • Improving access to medicines in the Russian Federation: the programme for supplementary pharmaceutical provision
  • What is evidence based medicine?
  • Improving access to health care in Armenia
  • Corporate lifelines: a new approach to making poverty history
  • The economic impact of smoke free hospitality venues in Norway


Eurohealth is a quarterly publication that provides a forum for researchers, policy-makers and experts to express their views on health policy issues and so contribute to a constructive debate on health policy in Europe.  

Contact Sherry Merkur by calling 0207 955 6194 or by emailing s.m.merkur@lse.ac.uk. For subscription enquiries, please email c.heidbrink@lse.ac.uk.

23 March 2007