Consultants Workload

Consultants are doing more out-of-hours work than ever before a survey suggests.

Consultants are doing more out-of-hours work than ever before a survey suggests.

The BMA analysed detailed diaries kept by more than 300 consultants of their working week. It found they worked 55 hours a week on average, ten hours of which were spent on unpaid out-of-hours work. This is an increase since a MORI poll for the Doctors and Dentists Review Body in 1998 found consultants worked 51.3 hours a week for the NHS, plus another 1.4 hours for emergency recalls, making 52.7 hours a week. The study also found that just over half did private work, usually one morning or afternoon per week, averaging 3.3 hours each week. The remaining 51.5 hours were spend on NHS work. Full story at www.hospitaldr.co.uk/hd_news_article.asp?ID=5249&Section=News

Patients may ask when the NHS consultants carry out their private work. There have been some studies on this which indicate most private work is performed outside of NHS hours. Doctors need to be prepared for long hours and cannot compromise their NHS commitments. The question may be asked as to where complex cases should be performed. The answer of course is that complex cases can be safely performed whenever and wherever the appropriate staff and equipment are available. This is one reason why specialists have been concerned about "network" agreements that limit subscribing patients to certain hospitals according to unclear and largely financial criteria. This can lead to the most accessible major hospital in an area being excluded even that is where the most complex treatments takes place. The difficulties of access of patients and their specialists to "network" hospitals has not been adequately taken into account.

There is also a growing awareness under clinical governance (the objective of which is to monitor and raise standards) that restrictions may have to be placed on some working practices.