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IMO: Seven-day working cannot succeed without addressing capacity and doctor numbers

By Reporter - 02nd Jun 2023

The IMO has warned that HSE plans to introduce seven-day working rosters in the health system will not make any meaningful difference if the underlying crises of capacity and doctor recruitment and retention are not urgently addressed.

It added that this meaningful and lasting investment in capacity and reform of the health system was particularly important given Census 2022 showed that our population is both rising and ageing.

Prof Matthew Sadlier, Chair of the IMO’s consultant committee, said: “The HSE’s plan to introduce seven-day rosters is a fine idea in theory, but in practice it is unworkable given our ongoing crises in bed capacity and doctor numbers. If implemented, we will only see negative outcomes as already burnt-out healthcare staff will be asked to work even harder. 

“Moving services over seven days with the same level of capacity and staffing is not going to make a significant difference.  We have become focused on patient discharges rather than patient outcomes. Doctors must remain free to make the best clinical decisions for patients and not be concerned with notional discharge targets.  

“All healthcare staff have stood up to every ask in terms of additional hours to alleviate this crisis for patients while at the same time the HSE and Government have failed to introduce onsite childcare, hot food for staff on all sites outside of daytime hours – if we are asking staff to change work patterns we must put the support systems in place.   

“Our health system is in a constant state of crisis with too few beds, too few doctors and other healthcare staff, and too few GPs and ongoing supports in the community. Successive government approaches to date have been akin to sticking a plaster on a broken leg and hoping that will deal with our systemic problems in the health system. Unfortunately, this latest plan is yet another example of short-term thinking which will have no positive impact whatsoever.”

Prof Sadlier added that it was disappointing that the Government was ill-prepared for the rise in population as noted in Census 2022. “It is very positive to see our population rising and people living longer. However, our health system is very poorly prepared for this additional pressure. While a majority of older people are healthy, we know that in years to come we will have many more older people who require complex care. This is highly concerning.”

The Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly recently said the health service should offer a seven-day service all year round and not only during periods of crisis.

The Minister’s comments came following HSE CEO Mr Bernard Gloster’s request to HSE staff to volunteer for extra work this bank holiday weekend to alleviate pressure in the acute sector.

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