Tuesday, 10 February 2004

Ceisteanna (296, 297, 298)

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

372 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children if the national task force on medical staffing, part 2, is continuing its work on deciding the configuration of hospitals nationally despite the fact that the consultant members have withdrawn from the task force. [3963/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health and Children)

Decisions regarding the work of the acute hospitals review group are a matter for its independent chairperson. I understand that the first meeting of the group has been scheduled for 19 February. It will be a matter for the chairperson to decide whether this meeting will proceed. In the meantime, the analytical and research work for the group, which is provided by a secretariat from my Department, will continue.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

373 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children if his attention has been drawn to the danger inherent in the current uncertainty in the health service regarding the future configuration of hospitals and consultant appointments which may see mass emigration of SPRs; and if he has plans to ensure potential Irish consultants are not lost to the system. [3964/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

374 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress made in identifying the training needs of SPRs to ensure a sufficient flow of home-grown consultants to meet the demands of the staffing arrangements proposed in the Hanly report. [3965/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

The Government approved the publication of the report of the national task force on medical staffing, or the Hanly report, in October 2003 and is committed in principle to the implementation of its recommendations. Those recommendations include a number of measures which, far from precipitating mass emigration, are expected to improve significantly the retention in Ireland of the doctors who train here and are likely to attract back into the Irish system some of our postgraduates who are training or working abroad at present.

The Hanly report sets out in considerable detail the projected training requirements which are expected to result from the shift to a consultant-provided public hospital service model, with a near doubling of public hospital consultant numbers. The training environment, post-Hanly, will be based on a greatly improved career path for doctors in training together with more and better training opportunities, based on: aligning the numbers of doctors in training at all levels, including specialist registrar or SpR, to projected vacancies at consultant level; ensuring that all NCHD posts will in future be genuine structured training posts, that is, the eventual phasing out of all non-training NCHD posts; correcting the present unsustainable trainer-trainee ratios by significantly reducing the overall number of NCHD posts as consultant numbers increase; implementing a flexible training strategy to address the increasing need for family-friendly and part-time working and training opportunities.

I announced at the launch of the Hanly report that I had asked the members of the task force's medical education and training project group to remain in place to address a number of outstanding issues, including the implications for medical education and training of the Hanly report itself and the short-term and long-term implications of the European working time directive, in a final report to be submitted to me as soon as possible. I understand the group expects to forward me its advice shortly on how best to accommodate training in the context of the August 2004 deadline under the directive — 58 hour maximum average working week for all doctors in training — and to submit its final report to me this autumn.

The group has been in close consultation with the key medical education and training stakeholders over the past two years and has continued to engage in detailed consultation since the publication of the Hanly report. On 9 January 2004, the group convened a successful and well-attended national seminar on postgraduate medical education and training titled, "Implementing Hanly: Top Quality Training and Improved Working Hours", which examined the long-term and short-term implications of the Hanly report and the European working time directive for all involved.

The combined effects of the measures referred to above, together with the ongoing work to address the training needs of all doctors in training and the implementation of the wider programme of health reforms, will include a greatly enhanced training environment and more and better opportunities for doctors in training to progress to consultant posts.