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NCHD taskforce recommendations must be progressed as ‘urgent priority’ – Minister

By Reporter - 07th Feb 2024

The Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly is today publishing a new report recommending improved working standards for NCHDs.

The final report contains 44 recommendations aimed at improving the experience of NCHDs and improving their work-life balance. The recommendations have responsible leads and implementation timeframes. The taskforce’s interim recommendations were published last April.

The new report includes recommendations for immediate implementation in 2024 and medium- to longer-term recommendations for phased implementation from 2024 to 2026.

According to Minister Donnelly, he 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 across five areas in 2024, including:

•         Dedicated leadership and support for NCHDs

•         Improved working standards

•         Education and training supports

•         Information Communications and Technology (ICT)

•         Increased access to training places

The Minister has given a commitment that he will return to Government within four months with an update on implementation including a costed implementation plan.

Established by the Minister in September 2022, the taskforce aimed to put in place sustainable workforce planning strategies and policies to improve the NCHD experience and work-life balance with enhanced NCHD structures and supports on clinical sites.

Minister Donnelly commented: “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.

“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.

“Significant progress has already been made on many of the interim report recommendations but there is a lot more work to do, and it is crucial that we maintain the momentum and commitment that we have seen over the past 18 months.

“I am confident that delivery of the taskforce recommendations will support present and future retention of NCHDs in Ireland by making the experience of doctors working in our health service both positive and fulfilling.”

Prof Anthony O’Regan, Chair of the taskforce, said: “The launch of this report is an important milestone for our health service. As Chair of the taskforce I want to acknowledge not only the work of all the taskforce members, but also the many stakeholders who informed these recommendations.

“We should not underestimate the scale of the challenges ahead. NCHDs are our future healthcare leaders, and it is in all our interests that we provide a supportive environment and culture to maximise each individual’s career progression. We are confident that this report provides the roadmap for a sea-change in Irish medical training.”

Dr Colm Henry, HSE Chief Clinical Officer, said: ‘’Our NCHD workforce is vital to the delivery of our health service now and in the future. The taskforce was primarily informed by the experiences of our NCHD colleagues and, from its work, describes a series of actions we need to take to improve their experience in work and in training and to support and enhance their welfare at work.”

Prof Brian Kinirons, Medical Director, HSE National Doctors Training and Planning, said: “I welcome the strong emphasis on education and training provided in the NCHD taskforce report.  The recommendations recognise the value and importance of high-quality training and education for our doctors to support their professional development and ultimately patient safety.”

Mr Ken Mealy, Chair of the Forum of Irish Postgraduate Medical Training Bodies, said: “The Forum of Irish Postgraduate Training Bodies welcomes the Final Report of the National Taskforce on the NCHD Workforce. The Forum appreciates having had the opportunity to contribute to this report as many of the recommendations reflect the Forum’s Strategic Framework for Postgraduate Medical Training in Ireland, 2021 – 2030.

“As training bodies, we are fully aware of the numerous challenges facing postgraduate medical training in the current healthcare environment and it is critical that we work collectively to improve the training experience of young doctors. The postgraduate training bodies are committed to adapting the content and delivery of the various training programmes in order to meet the needs of both NCHDs and the health service.”

Prof Paula O’Leary, Chair, Irish Medical Schools Council, commented: “I hope the recommendations of the taskforce get the support needed to progress and become a reality for the current and future medical workforce, and ultimately to benefit the patients and populations served by our health service. As the ‘voice’ of the Schools of medicine at the taskforce table, we will continue to strive to ensure our graduates are educated and trained to the highest of international standards.

“I hope that with the implementation of taskforce recommendations that graduates of the Irish medical schools will be a key driver of the excellence which our health service strives to provide.”

The report is available here: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/631e7-national-taskforce-on-the-non-consultant-hospital-doctor-nchd-workforce-final-recommendations-report/

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