Proposed changes in medical staffing levels and pressure for reduced hours of work by junior doctors have focused attention on out‐of‐hours work by junior doctors in the United Kingdom. Junior doctors are on average on duty for over 90 hours per week, and preregistration house officers typically spend almost 70 hours per week actually working. There has been a decline in contracted hours for junior doctors during the 1980s, but an increase in the number of hours on duty and, in the cases of paediatrics and general surgery, an increase in the number of hours worked. Current policy is for expansion in consultant numbers and reduction in junior staff. Critics argue that the planned expansion of consultant posts is inadequate and the absence of registrars in some specialties is dangerous. Previous attempts to reduce the number of hours on duty had little success: suggested solutions have not been implemented widely. One possible solution may be reducing and reallocating out‐of‐hours work. It has been suggested that many of the current tasks undertaken by junior hospital doctors could be performed by non‐medical staff. A thorough examination of the tasks actually undertaken by junior hospital doctors outside normal working hours is required.
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