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NCHD taskforce recommendations need to be implemented

By Paul Mulholland - 18th Feb 2024

taskforce recommendations

After some delay, the final NCHD taskforce report was published earlier this month. The report contains 44 recommendations to enhance the experience of NCHDs and improve their work/life balance.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has written to the Chair of the HSE board and to the Forum of Irish Postgraduate Medical Training Bodies to ensure that the development and roll-out of implementation plans is prioritised.

“For some time, I have acknowledged that significant change is required to ensure that we improve the NCHD experience and work-life balance through the development and implementation of modern and improved NCHD structures and supports on clinical sites,” according to the Minister.

“It is critical that the recommendations of the NCHD taskforce are progressed as a matter of urgent priority. It is also critical that the implementation of the recommendations is monitored on an ongoing basis to ensure that delivery of the desired improvements impacts positively on NCHD working and training. The implementation structures in this report are underpinned by three core principles: Prioritisation, collaboration, and accountability for delivery of results.”

The Minister said significant progress has been made on many of the interim report recommendations, but admitted “there is a lot more work to do”.

The IMO gave a “guarded welcome” to the publication of the report.

The Organisation said while the recommendations in the report are positive, it is vital there is an implementation plan with sufficient funding to allow the recommendations to become a reality.

Dr Rachel McNamara, Chair of the NCHD committee of the IMO, said: “We have been experiencing ever-increasing numbers of NCHDs emigrating to systems where they are valued, supported, and offered a work/life balance.”

“The recommendations in this report go some way to addressing the issues faced by NCHDs today, but for any of us to have real confidence we need to see major investment and implementation to make those recommendations a reality.”

A feature in this edition of the Medical Independent (MI) examines the issue. In the feature, the Department of Health told MI €5 million was provided to support the interim recommendations of the taskforce, which were made last year. An additional €5 million will be provided this year. The spokesperson added that many of the recommendations contained in the final report will be resourced through funding contained in Budget 2024.

The taskforce was established in September 2022 following the threat of strike action by NCHDs. The final report comes at a time of renewed industrial unrest following the widely criticised HSE recruitment embargo. The embargo made many question whether the health service was serious about tackling the long-running issues faced by NCHDs. Implementing the recommendations will be one way of proving this seriousness. It will only be through tangible action that NCHDs can be sure that health management are addressing concerns that have been largely ignored for far too long.

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