Moving to a maximum 48-hour working week for junior doctors is not possible given the current demands on the NHS, the Scottish Government has said.
It comes after leaders in the medical profession raised concerns about long working hours for junior doctors, saying urgent action is needed to improve their welfare.
An expert report has advised ministers that achieving a maximum 48-hour working week would have “significant resource implications” and would take at least ten years of planning.
Regulations limit the working week to 48 hours but take this as an average over 26 weeks, meaning many junior doctors have individual weeks with very long hours.
Health secretary Humza Yousaf said moving to a maximum 48-hour working week remains a long-term goal for the Government.
He said: “This Government is committed to being open and transparent which is why we have published this independent expert working group report.
“We recognise the challenges it highlights in relation to our goal of introducing a 48-hour working week for junior doctors.
“I know that implementation of this policy will not be easy and will involve system-wide considerations.
“In the meantime, the expert working group report contains many recommendations that will improve working conditions for junior doctors and we are fully committed to their implementation.
“Many of these were also highlighted by junior doctors themselves, in the recent wellbeing report from the British Medical Association.”
Earlier this week, the British Medical Association (BMA) Scotland warned working conditions for junior doctors needs to improve.
It said young medics are at risk of burnout as a result of a poor work-life balance.
Dr Lailah Peel, chair of the BMA’s Scottish junior doctor committee, said she welcomed the expert group’s report.
“Junior doctors were struggling before the pandemic, and the last 19 months have only amplified our concerns,” she added.
“Our wellbeing is of the utmost importance right now and small steps to improve this can make a huge difference to staff morale, not to mention the recruitment and retention of doctors within NHS Scotland.
“This is a good starting point, and we look forward to working with the Scottish Government and employers to take these recommendations forward as a high priority.”