Royal College of Physicians of Ireland calls for organisations to work together on EWTD

RCPI has today called on all those in a position of authority and influence to work together to facilitate the implementation of the European Working Time Directive.

Feedback received by RCPI from its Trainees confirms that the implementation of the European Working Time Directive has not progressed sufficiently. This is at the expense of patient care and the wellbeing of the NCHDS and trainees. The dissatisfaction of NCHDs with the delayed implementation of EWTD has been expressed in various fora, and is evidenced in the high numbers of trainees and junior doctors leaving the country to work abroad.

Launching a position paper today on the European Working Time Directive, Prof Frank Murray outlined a number of fundamental principles that should form the basis of any agreement regarding its implementation:

  • Patient care should be the main focus and should not be compromised.
  • Professional development and training should be maintained and improved to run in parallel with a high standard of patient care.
  • The post-take ward round should be preserved as the main focus for consultant–led professional communication and transfer of clinical responsibility with an emphasis on continuity of patient care, in-service teaching and learning.
  • A reduction in the number of hours worked per individual NCHD will mean that more individuals are required to do the same amount of work. These will need to be mainly, but not exclusively, additional medical staff.

Speaking today at the launch of the RCPI position paper on European Working Time Directive, Professor Frank Murray, Chairperson of the RCPI Working Group on Trainee Doctor Working Conditions said:

“We support implementation of the EWTD. Strategies to develop this include addressing the problem of excessive NCHD workload, and not only the excessive working hours. Additional staff will be needed and for some tasks, especially at intern level, it may be best to have them assigned to other additional staff in hospitals. Methods of ensuring continuity of care and efficient handover of patients between shifts need to be implemented. We suggest that the HSE and individual hospitals will need to work with the training bodies and trainees to ensure that trainees get the appropriate level of experience and training, without extending the length of the training programme.”

“The excessive working hours for young doctors may have a negative impact on patient care and the morale and well being of doctors. The problem of recruiting and retaining medical talent is one of the most serious challenges facing the health service. Young doctors move abroad to gain the experience of working in another health system. There is now little incentive for them to return to work in Ireland. This is a recent phenomenon. For young doctors, the working conditions are very unattractive. All those in a position of influence and authority need to work together to resolve this serious problem.”

Dr Grainne O’Kane, Non Consultant Hospital Doctor in the Mater Hospital and Chairperson of the RCPI’s Collegiate Members’ Committee said “For too long NCHDs have been working in conditions which prevent us from providing the best possible patient care. The onerous working hours can compromise the patient but also affect the mental and physical health of the doctor. NCHD morale is at an all time low, but we have reached a pivotal point in the Irish medical profession where real changes can be made to ensure optimal healthcare provision for all. The reduction in working hours for doctors is imperative but complex. The implementation of EWTD must continue to foster an environment of quality training whilst aiming to create an attractive workplace for NCHDs to pursue their desired career."


Media queries please contact:

Maeve Barry, Communications RCPI
Tel: 01 8639794/0858502005