Press Release: Office of Jean Lambert MEP

17th March 2006


Green MEP Questions NHS Capacity Under Long Working Hours

Green Euro MP, Jean Lambert has today warned that the NHS will struggle to cope with increasing demands brought on by Britain's long working hours culture that is seriously damaging our physical and mental health.

The Green Party Spring Conference 2006, being held in Scarborough this weekend, kicked off with an energetic 'Health' panel discussing the current aspects of the NHS and new policies being introduced by the Government. The Euro MP, who recently released a new report focusing on Britain and the working time directive is extremely concerned that British people work some of the longest hours in Europe and, as the only EU country to include an opt out in the Working Time Directive this looks set to continue.

Jean, Green Co-ordinator on the Committee of Employment and Social Affairs in the European Parliament commented; "We are seeing record levels of employee sick leave due to long hours and stress. Sadly the British work culture is such that stress is seen as a weakness and so instead of being treated, gets worse, costing both the individual and business. Indirect causes of long hours such as tiredness on the roads are particularly damaging. Symptoms of stress and fatigue are often worse than being under the influence of alcohol or drugs and all impact on the available capacity in the NHS.

"The UK Government talks about vision but it is clear to me that without focus on the prevention of ill health, short-sighted policies will result in the public sector picking up the bill once again with the NHS struggling to meet the demand. It is time the Government accepted that long hours are simply damaging our health, innovation and economy. We have to protect the UK's workforce by getting rid of the opt-out and regulating the working week," Jean concluded.

Jean appeared on the panel alongside Professor Colin Leys and Stuart Jeffery, Health spokesperson for the Green Party.


For more information please contact:
Morwenna Holland, Media Officer
tel: 020 7407 6280 or 07813149812

Notes to editors:
Jean Lambert: In October 2005 Jean was named MEP 2005 for Justice and Human Rights. Jean was first elected Green Party Member of the European Parliament for London in the 1999 European elections. She was re-elected in 2004. She is one of nine MEPs representing London and one of two UK Green representatives in the European Parliament.

I Must Work Harder? Britain and the Working Time Directive: Copies of the report will be available at the launch or can be downloaded from after the event.

Levels of productivity: The UK's productivity performance, on a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per workers basis is lower than France. (France works to a maximum 35 hour week.)
UK = 100 GDP per worker
France = 150 GDP per worker