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IMO Survey Highlights ‘Unsustainable’ Working Environment for Junior Doctors

A survey of NCHDs (Non-Consultant Hospital Doctors) published today, Tuesday 2nd April 2024, by the Irish Medical Organisation has found that the health and safety of both patients and doctors in Irish hospitals is being routinely put at risk because young doctors are forced to work unsafe and illegal working hours.   The survey found that 83% of NCHDs are “routinely” working unsafe and illegal working hours in contravention of the Organisation of Working Time Act.  77% of NCHDs report being pressured by their employer to work extra shifts – often at short notice – to cover gaps in rotas.

The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) will consider the results of the survey at its AGM in Killarney this week (Thursday to Sunday). The survey was conducted in February to develop a national picture of NCHD working conditions and attitudes since the introduction of the HSE Recruitment Freeze.

Key survey results:

  • 83% of NCHDs are routinely working unsafe and illegal working hours in contravention of the Organisation of Working Time Act, creating an environment that is inherently unsafe for patients and doctors.
  • 77% of NCHDs are being pressured by their employer to work extra shifts, often at short notice, to cover gaps in the rota.  This is a key factor in high levels of NCHD burnout and stress.
  • Almost 100% of NCHDs cite excessive hours, poor support and challenging working conditions as the key drivers for doctor emigration.
  • 75% of NHDs do not feel valued, respected or supported by their employer
  • 88% say they have had to query their salary due to underpayment for overtime or other pay issues.

Speaking ahead of this week’s IMO AGM, Dr. Rachel McNamara, Chair of the NCHD Committee of the IMO, said, “The results of this survey are hugely disappointing but not surprising. The NCHD Agreement negotiated by the IMO with the HSE and Department of Health in December 2022 has not been fully implemented and conditions for NCHDs have not meaningfully improved.  The HSE Recruitment Freeze has exacerbated an already difficult working environment.”

The NCHD Taskforce Report launched by the Minister in recent weeks points to a system that does not value or respect NCHDs.

Dr McNamara continued “Many of the issues and recommendations raised in the Taskforce Report have been highlighted by the IMO for some time. What we need to see now is a fast-tracked implementation plan with associated funding. Doctors are voting with their feet, and moving to systems that value them and enable NCHDs to have a work-life balance with appropriate rest and support. The current stark reality of working life for NCHDs is very grim, and we need urgent action and a shift in the culture of how we treat our NCHDs. The HSE and the Department of Health must now seriously commit to change, otherwise, we will face another decade of struggling to make inroads into the ongoing crises of waiting times, overcrowding and workforce drain that persist in this country.”

(Source: IMO.ie)

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