The European Working Time Directive (EWTD) is a European Union Directive which, among other requirements, restricts the number of hours a person can work in a week to 48 hours. The purpose of the EWTD is to protect the health and safety of workers. Since its introduction in 1998 the EWTD has been gradually introduced into clinical practice and was fully applied to doctors and dentists in training in August 2009.

Much of trainees’ learning in England is experiential and has traditionally involved long working hours. This model also means that trainees play an important role in the service delivery of healthcare. The full implementation of the EWTD created a challenge to continue to provide high quality training and uphold patient safety within the same service environment.

With this in mind the Secretary of State for Health requested that an independent review of the impact of the EWTD on training in relation to dentists, doctors, healthcare scientists and pharmacists be undertaken. Medical Education England was commissioned to do this and the review was Chaired by Professor Sir John Temple.

The resulting report Time for Training: A review of the European Working Time Directive on the quality of training suggested that high quality training can continue to be delivered within the constraints of a 48 hour week, making several recommendations for how this can be achieved:

  • A consultant delivered service should be implemented
  • Service delivery must explicitly support training
  • Trainers and trainees must use the learning opportunities in every clinical situation
  • Trainers should be recognised, developed and rewarded
  • Regular planning and monitoring is required to achieve training excellence