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Minister launches national taskforce on NCHD workforce

By Reporter - 08th Sep 2022

GP services

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has today announced he is establishing a national taskforce to focus on the NCHD workforce.

The purpose of the taskforce is to put in place “sustainable workforce planning strategies and policies” to improve the NCHD experience and to support present and future retention of NCHDs in Ireland.

In June, IMO NCHDs voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action up to and including strike action, citing unsafe and illegal working hours, failure by the employer to pay NCHDs for all hours worked, unsustainable costs associated with NCHD training, and failure by the HSE to ensure all NCHDs received full entitlements to annual leave and study leave.

According to the Department, the new taskforce will seek to improve the NCHD experience/work-life balance through the development and implementation of improved NCHD structures and supports in hospital sites. It will aim to “further develop and foster” a culture of education and training at clinical site level and plan for future configuration of the medical workforce to support delivery of healthcare in Ireland.

Prof Anthony O’Regan, Consultant Respiratory Physician, Director of Postgraduate Clinical Education, Saolta University Healthcare Group, and Dean of the Institute of Medicine, RCPI, will Chair the group which will include representation from “key stakeholders” across the health services.

Membership of the taskforce will include, among others, HSE Chief Clinical Officer Dr Colm Henry, NCHDs, hospital consultants, Forum of Postgraduate Medical Training Bodies, the Medical Council, HSE National Doctors Training and Planning, Acute Operations, National HR and the Department of Health.

According to the Department: “In recognition of the imperative to address priority areas, and to ensure quick progress, the Minister has directed that the taskforce be set up for one year. The inaugural meeting of the taskforce is planned for mid-September 2022. The Minister is currently finalising the membership of the national taskforce, which will be announced following the inaugural meeting in mid-September.”

Minister Donnelly said: “Recruitment and retention of healthcare workers, including NCHDs, is a top priority for me and the Government. The intention is that the taskforce will develop a range of policy initiatives to result in improved training, structures and supports for all NCHDs. 

“I have met and spoken to many NCHDs on my visits to hospitals around the country. I have heard first-hand their issues. I am fully committed to addressing these issues and to implementing sustainable workforce planning strategies and policies which promote a culture of education and training at clinical site level.

“As part of Sláintecare delivery, we need to support and grow a sustainable NCHD workforce. I am keen to ensure that workforce planning benefits from a range of expertise and perspectives. My Department will collaborate and work closely and constructively with key stakeholders to successfully support the NCHD workforce and to inform medical workforce planning into the future. Patients are at the centre of our health service and workforce planning improvements will have positive impacts on patient care.

“I would like to thank the Chair and members of the taskforce for accepting the invitation to participate on the national taskforce. The extensive knowledge and expertise of the group will provide the leadership and expertise required to deliver sustainable long-term solutions to address the significant challenges that need to be addressed. I look forward to constructive engagement with the national taskforce as we progress this important and significant programme of work.”

On today’s announcement, Prof O’Regan said: “I have been deeply committed to training and education throughout my career. I welcome the opportunity to review and improve NCHD working and training resources across our clinical sites in Ireland. It is imperative that we develop a supportive environment commensurate to the talent of our trainee NCHD colleagues and future healthcare leaders.”

HSE Chief Clinical Officer Dr Henry stated: “I welcome the taskforce which will be specifically focused on improving the experience of NCHDs in our health service.  Our NCHDs are a critical part of the health service, and the establishment of this taskforce recognises the commitment to supporting and retaining high quality doctors in Ireland.”

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