I propose to take Questions Nos. 150, 159, 167 and 207 together.
The Government is committed to implementing the Hanly report. It will mean a much better service for patients, with considerably more consultants, working in teams. The report also involves reducing the working hours of non-consultant hospital doctors, which will benefit both patients and doctors. In addition, Hanly proposes a reorganisation of our acute hospital services so that patients receive the best possible treatment in the location most appropriate to their needs.
We have begun the process of implementing the Hanly report. My Department, together with health employers, has initiated discussions with the medical organisations on a new contract for consultants which would enable a consultant-provided service to be established nationally. This is a key element of the Hanly agenda.
I am also moving to implement the report's recommendations on the reorganisation of acute hospital services. The Hanly report examined the organisation of hospital services in two regions, those covered by East Coast Area Health Board and the Mid-Western Health Board. I will shortly be announcing details of implementation groups in these areas. Each group will focus on the detailed provision of acute hospital services in future in line with Hanly.
The report also proposed that the organisation of acute hospital services in the rest of the country should be examined. Today I announced the composition of an acute hospitals review group, to be chaired by David Hanly, for this purpose. It will be asked to prepare a national hospitals plan for the interim health services executive, building on the principles of the Hanly report. The group will be asked to examine the role and structure of acute hospital services on a national basis.
Under the European working time directive, we must reduce the average weekly working hours of junior doctors to no more than 58 by 1 August. My Department is working closely with the Health Service Employers Agency and other health agencies to bring this about. Negotiations have commenced on the issue with the Irish Medical Organisation.
Finally, in relation to medical education and training, I have asked the group that worked originally as part of the national task force on medical staffing to remain in place to complete consideration of issues relating to postgraduate medical education and training. This will be of particular concern in the context of a 48-hour working week which must be in place by August 2009. The group's final report is expected later this year.