The limit has been in place since August, 2009, and doctors have a limited opt-out clause. According to Bloxham, European health providers have been hit hard by the rule, which cut back their hours “drastically.” Critics have said that “junior doctors, who used to work very long hours, were being stopped from learning or building up experience as quickly as in the past.”
The EU has committed to either reviewing or overhauling the law, and Bloxham lists a few possible modifications.
One way of altering the rules could see doctors’ hours spent on call at hospital rather than on duty counted differently to the hours spent treating patients.
It might also permit them to return from their breaks sooner than the law currently allows in cases where staff shortages are more severe.
The weekly average for American doctors is around 51, which is down from 55 in 1996.
For more European health news, see AHCJ’s Covering Europe initiative.