Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Questions (613)

Seán Kyne


613. Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Health the progress in ensuring compliance with the EU working time directive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15436/14]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The provisions of the European Working Time Directive encompass a number of measures to protect workers welfare and safety, including a maximum 48 hour working week - averaged over a reference period, daily and weekly rest periods and the granting of compensatory rest where the working day exceeds 13 hours. Considerable progress has been made over the last 12 months on progressing compliance with the provisions of the Working Time Directive in respect of NCHDs. Data from the HSE shows that average working hours for NCHDs in 2009 was 60 hours a week, 54 hours per week in 2012 and 51.4 hours in the third quarter of 2013.

The HSE is focused on advancing implementation of the Directive. Intensive negotiations conducted at the Labour Relations Commission in September and October resulted in agreement on a joint approach, involving hospital management, the IMO and NCHDs to achieve EWTD compliance. The agreement focused in particular on steps to be taken in the period up to the NCHD rotation on 13 January 2014 to eliminate shifts in excess of 24 hours. At a meeting between the HSE and the IMO on 6 February progress made by acute hospitals on achieving compliance with the agreed maximum 24 hour shift target was assessed. That assessment showed that the majority of hospitals have made significant progress.

NCHD recruitment and retention is required in order to facilitate the achievement of EWTD compliance. Achievement of full compliance will also requires reorganisation of the delivery of certain services within Hospital Groups. The number of NCHDs in the public health system has increased by over 200 in recent years and now exceeds 4,900. However, there are international shortages of NCHDs in certain categories and specialties. There are also some hospitals to which it has been difficult to attract NCHDS for a range of reasons including training opportunities and rural location.

I set up the MacCraith Group to undertake a Strategic Review of Medical Training and Career structure last summer. The Group will make recommendations aimed at improving the retention of medical graduates in the public health system, planning for future service needs and achieving the maximum benefit from investment in medical education and training. The Group provided an Interim Report in December 2013 focusing on training and is now examining career structures and pathways following training with a view to submitting a report by the end of this week. It will provide the final report by the end of June 2014.

Question No. 614 answered with Question No. 553.