Ireland must have sustainable arrangements to train and develop the medical workforce we need to provide safe and effective services to our population. For that reason, I am committed to retaining in our health service doctors who are educated and trained in Ireland. I intend to do this by providing them with clear career pathways and appropriate working conditions. I think the lack of such requirements is one of the main reasons many of our young doctors are leaving. The Government is committed to achieving compliance with the European working time directive in relation to non-consultant hospital doctors by the end of 2014. At my request, the HSE established a national group earlier this year to bring an urgent focus to the implementation of the working time directive. This group has been working closely with hospitals. There has been progress on a number of interim targets relating to the number of doctors working more than 24 hours in a single shift and instances of doctors working more than 68 hours a week. I am confident that progress will continue to be made towards the objective of full compliance.
I welcome this week's decision by the Irish Medical Organisation to suspend its threat of industrial action by non-consultant hospital doctors. This followed last week's discussions under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission. A further meeting of the parties is taking place today. I hope it will be possible to resolve the issues of concern in a way which does not involve disruption of services to the public. In July of this year, I set up a working group chaired by Professor Brian MacCraith, who is the president of Dublin City University, to carry out a strategic review of the medical training and career structure of non-consultant hospital doctors with a view to improving the retention of graduates in the public health system. In particular, I want the group to set out a clear pathway for training at every level from intern to specialist and to examine the potential for reducing the length of specialist training. I see this as a modernising initiative which is needed urgently. I have asked Professor MacCraith to provide an interim report to me by the end of November 2013 and a final report by the end of June 2014.
I am very keen for this matter to be resolved. I want to send a message to the young men and women who study hard to achieve high points in the leaving certificate, and who study so hard for a further five years at college to become doctors, that there is a future here for them. We need them and we value them. We should respect them. I certainly do, even if others have not in the past.