Press Release

Minister Martin welcomes Government Decisions on the Report of Non Consultant Hospital Doctors’ Working Hours and the Report of the Medical Manpower Forum

The Minister for Health and Children, Micheál Martin TD, today (3 April, 2001) strongly welcomed the decision by the Government in relation to the Report of the National Joint Steering Group on the Working Hours of Non Consultant Hospital Doctors and the Report of the Forum on Medical Manpower. The Minister stated “the recommendations contained in both these Reports were achieved by consensus and on a partnership basis. The Reports represent a significant step forward for the health services in that they map out a set of proposals for the reduction of NCHD hours to the level required by the EU Directive”. He said that the Government had welcomed the progress made towards the implementation of the 48 hour week for NCHDs and the revised structures for medical training.

The Report on NCHD working hours was undertaken in response to the EU Directive to reduce the working week to 48 hours by 2010. The immediate task is to get to 58 hours by 2004 and interim measures to start this process will be taken this year. The Report also contains recommendations on major changes in the way doctors are trained, flexible working arrangements, family-friendly policies. The Minister commented “a National Task Force will be established to prepare a detailed implementation programme for the EU Working Time Directive followed by further consideration by Government of the costs involved. The Task Force will also have to quantify the resource requirements arising from the Report’s recommendations. I propose to appoint the members of the Task Force and get the process underway as quickly as possible. The decision to set up a special task force is proof of the Government’s determination to implement the EU Directive in the most effective and efficient way possible”.

In regard to medical manpower, the Government has noted the recommendations in relation to a consultant-delivered public hospital service and has said that they will consider these proposals again in the light of the results obtained from a costing study on the matter which is also to be undertaken by the newly established National Task Force on Medical Manpower. The Government has also approved the commencement of negotiations with the relevant parties on core issues arising from the Reports, including flexibility/cover arrangements, teamworking, etc. and on the issues highlighted in Report No. 38 of the Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Service.

The Report of the Forum on Medical Manpower sets out proposals for the structuring of consultant posts both in the context of changed work patterns and a consultant delivered service. The next stage is to quantify the costs, following which the Government will reconsider the proposals. The Minister said that “a detailed quantification of the resource implications will now be undertaken. I intend that the National Task Force will undertake this exercise in tandem with the work to be done on resource and other requirements in relation to the EU Directive. There are likely to be very significant financial and staffing implications which will require careful consideration by Government”. The Minister emphasised the importance of ensuring that this study produced detailed and accurate data on the number of staff and the costs involved.

Arrangements will now be made for the publication of both Reports.