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updated 3:52 PM CEST, May 28, 2024
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The European Working Time Directive is an essential piece of health andsafety legislation for employees in the European Union and, is therefore ofconsiderable importance to doctors.Recently the European Commission launched a public consultation, andcommissioned two studies, on the implementation and review of the EuropeanWorking Time Directive. The results of this work have not been published, andthe European Commission has not yet submitted a legislative proposal to theEuropean Parliament and the Council.The European Junior Doctors’ Permanent Working Group (EJD), theEuropean Federation of Salaried Doctors (FEMS) and the European Association ofSenior Hospital Physicians (AEMH) call upon the European Commission not tocompromise the health and safety provisions of the European Working TimeDirective for financial considerations. In this context it is particularly importantthat the findings of the European Court of Justice (C-303/98 SIMAP of 3 October2000 and C-151/02 Dr. Norbert Jaeger of 9 September 2003) are respected. Thesubstantive effects of these rulings should remain unaltered in EU law, in otherwords:-The entire period of on-call time (at the work place) is working time.-Compensatory rest must be taken immediately after a prolonged workingperiod.Furthermore EJD, FEMS and AEMH are against an extension of thereference period for establishing weekly working time limits.Once more EJD, FEMS and AEMH want to remind the EuropeanCommission that excessively long working hours not only carry health risks fordoctors, but also represent a considerable risk for their patients.


EJD, FEMS and AEMH point out that the involvement of physicians inhealthcare management is vital. Evidence shows that clinical leadership improvesclinical results, patients’ satisfaction and financial outcomes. Thus, clinicalleadership ensures that the treatment of patients is not influenced by economiccriteria since the medical needs are the primary focus of attention.


Reductions in employee numbers are frequently seen as a quick solution toaddress budgetary constraints or to alleviate financial pressures, however thenegative impacts of such staff cuts can often prove costly. The heightenedphysician fatigue and stress arising from insufficient staffing levels can lowermotivation and productivity, as well as significantly increase the risk of medicalerror. The costs of failing to adequately meet the needs of patients can, therefore,erode any potential savings made as a direct result of lowering headcount.EJD, FEMS, AEMH firmly strongly believe in the free mobility of the medicalworkforce. However, EJD, FEMS and AEMH strongly believe that each Europeancountry should be in a position to meet its internal need for physicians from itsown human resources. Therefore, sufficient funding must be allocated forundergraduate and postgraduate medical training to ensure that every countrymay train as many physicians as they require, according to their needs. After all,availability of sufficient medical staff all over Europe will also contribute to thesuccessful implementation of the EWTD.