This study aimed to assess the effects of recent controls on juniors' duty hours (the 'New Deal') on the work performed by all grades of ENT medical staff 'out of hours'. For 100 days in 1993 the out of hours duties of all grades of doctor in the Otolaryngology Unit were monitored using daily logs. Three patterns of cover were run in parallel and subjected to comparison: Light: Senior House Officer (SHO)--Consultant (CON); Traditional: SHO-Intermediate (Registrar or Senior Registrar)--Consultant; Cross-cover--Pre-Registration House Officer (PRHO)--Intermediate-Consultant. The SHO 'out of hours' daily workload did not differ significantly between the traditional and light systems (median hours: 5.6 versus 5.0). There was an increase in working hours for the intermediate (registrar or senior registrar) grade of 84 per cent when the cross-cover system was in operation compared with the traditional system (median hours: 5.0 versus 2.8; p < 0.0001--Mann-Whitney U test). Consultant working hours increased by an average of 132 per cent as a result of removal of the intermediate tier (median hours: 1.7 versus 0.80; p < 0.0001). Reduction in on-call hours of junior staff resulted in a need for cross-cover and also in the frequent removal of an intermediate tier of staff. This has been shown to have a considerable effect on working patterns for intermediate and senior grades in an ENT unit of average size. Further reductions would be expected to have major effects on the working patterns of the consultant grade and considerably dilute the emergency experience of trainees.