An audit has shown that doctors are breaching the European Working Time Directive, which limits adults to working no more than 48 hours on average over a 17 week period.
The audit, carried out by the Royal College of Physicians, reveals that despite the 48 hour working week limit, doctors are actually working longer hours for free to make up for shortfalls, as hospitals cut their contracted hours and employ fewer senior doctors to save money.
Each week, consultants are working 11.5% of their contracted hours extra free. This figure rises to 14% for doctors who work part time. Overall, this work accounts for the equivalent of 1,450 full-time consultants, up by 205 compared to 2009.
51.8% of consultants say that time available to spend with trainees has reduced during the past three years. This change may result from the fact that consultants are spending more time doing jobs that would previously have been done by a junior doctor.
Dr Andrew Goddard, Director of Royal College of Physicians Medical Workforce Unit, said: "The European Working Time Directive continues to be seen by many consultant physicians as the main culprit responsible for the disintegration of the clinical team and training.
"Consultants are less available to teach trainees and are often having to do jobs that would have previously been done by junior doctors."
The survey also reveals that the European Working Time Directive is having a negative effect on patient care.
Seven in ten consultants who answered the survey said patient care had got worse or much worse since the 48 hour working week was introduced.
In addition, almost 9 in 10 consultants said continuity of care had got worse, and 8 in 10 said training had got worse or much worse.
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