Sunday, May 15, 2005

Unintended Consequences of Reducing Junior Doctors' Hours

From the Guardian, a reminder about unintended consequences.... The UK now must limit work hours of hospital house staff to the European Union limit of 58 a week. The previous limits were 72 hours "on call," and 56 working a week. Of course, the European Union regulations were not accompanied by any funds to pay for the work that house-staff could no longer do. The Guardian article describes how limitations on hospital staffing at night may mean that emergencies may not be attended by those physicians with the necessary expertise to handle them optimally. For example, the Guardian recounts how a geriatrician was required to attempt the resuscitation fo a newborn baby. Furthermore, some junior doctors charged they were coerced into falsifying reports of hours worked to avoid onerous penalties on their hospitals.

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