While the Commission and the social partners have given consideration to the operation of the European Working Time Directive, including the Court of Justice's rulings that all time spent 'on-call on site' counts as working time for non-consultant hospital doctors and other categories of staff who may be required to deliver services on a 24/7 basis, no changes are envisaged at present. Furthermore, the Commission has noted in working papers that the possibility of any future changes does not mean it will not pursue compliance with present EU law where necessary.
The Government is committed to achieving compliance with the Directive in respect of non-consultant hospital doctors (NCHDs) by 2014. I have emphasised to the Health Service Executive the high priority the Government and I attach to this issue.
In January 2012, a detailed plan for the achievement of compliance by NCHDs with the Working Time Directive was submitted to the EU Commission. The plan affirmed Ireland's commitment to achieving compliance with the Directive over a three-year time period. It committed to implementing the measures necessary, including new work patterns for medical staff, transfer of work undertaken by NCHDs to other grades and the organisation of hospital services to support compliance.
The HSE National Service Plan 2013 states that there will be a particular focus in the acute hospital service on the achievement of compliance with the European Working Time Directive amongst the non-consultant hospital doctor workforce. The Executive is currently finalising its National Operational Plan to support the implementation of the National Service Plan. This will specify in greater detail the actions to be taken in relation to EWTD compliance. The HSE was asked by my Department in January to ensure that clear responsibility is placed with a hospital CEO and a senior manager and/or clinical lead for the achievement of specified improvements in compliance, such that the end 2014 target will be met.