The new 48-hour week in Europe for training junior doctors is to be reviewed following claims that a change in law might endanger patients’ lives.

The new rule due to come into effect from 1 August shortens the working hours of junior doctors to 48 from 52 hours a week.

The review was announced after the Royal College of Surgeons president John Black warned in UK newspaper The Daily Telegraph that the reduction would put patients’ lives at risk because of the impact on the quality of training doctors will receive.

UK Health Secretary Alan Johnson said that everyone’s overriding objective is the quality and safety of patient care while also offering doctors a good work-life balance.

“However, given the concerns raised by some professional groups it is important that there is an independent and objective assessment of whether the introduction of the European Working Time Directive (EWTD) fully into the NHS will necessitate changes to the current system of postgraduate medical training,” said Johnson.

One in three junior doctors worked for more than 48 hours a week in September 2008 even though hospitals trusts were supposed to bring in new rotas compliant with the EWTD, according to the British Medical Association.

The BMA’s Junior Doctors Committee chairman Andy Thornley said that junior doctors delivered a large proportion of service in hospitals, but needed training time to become good consultants and GPs.

By staff writer.