New Cap On Doctors' Hours 'Threatens Chaos'
The Royal College of Surgeons and pressure group RemedyUK have warned that the European Working Time Directive (EWTD) could wreak havoc if there is a second wave of swine flu in the autumn.
Dr Andy Thornley, chairman of the British Medical Association's junior doctors' committee, repeated fears that doctors may have been asked to lie about their hours and warned of potential gaps in rotas.
In May, a poll found some junior doctors have been told to say they were meeting the new rules "on paper" when in fact they were working longer hours.
Dr Thornely said: "The NHS has had a decade to prepare for the introduction of the 48-hour week for junior doctors, yet it is clear to those of us that work in the NHS that many trusts have not properly prepared for this change.
"We are not reassured by government reports that the NHS is 97% compliant with the new working time regulation as we fear many junior doctors are being pressured to lie about their hours.
"Our members are worried about their training; many feel it has reduced in quality as working hours have been reduced.
"The future of the NHS depends on the production of the high quality consultants of tomorrow. This can not be done if standards of training are allowed to slide.
"Junior doctors are also deeply concerned that patient services could be affected in trusts that have not properly prepared for the working time directive."
But NHS Employers insist the plans have been in place for a long time and the NHS will be able to cope.
Many doctors in the NHS are already working under the EWTD.
So far, only 200 rotas out of 6,500 nationally have derogated in order to retain longer hours because they could not meet the August 1 deadline for implementing the EWTD, NHS Employers said.
Think tank Open Europe, which is calling for reform of the European Union, said the rules could cost the NHS the equivalent of 5,400 new doctors.
It said the new cap on junior doctor hours will cost the NHS between £143m and £293m.
For the same amount the NHS will spend complying with the new rules, it could employ between 3,835 and 7,858 additional junior doctors.
Open Europe's research director, Mats Persson, said: "Smack in the middle of a swine flu pandemic, not to mention a recession, these stringent new rules could not come at a worse time.
"This scenario was unforeseeable when EU ministers rubber stamped these rules in Brussels almost a decade ago, but underlines precisely the reason why governments must be extremely careful when signing up to laws in Europe."