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‘No data’ available from HSE’s NCHD working hours verification process

By Catherine Reilly - 01st Mar 2024

verification process

The HSE was “not in a position” to provide the IMO with details of NCHDs’ working hours despite instigating a revised “verification” process in November, the union has stated.

An IMO spokesperson told the Medical Independent on 13 February: “The IMO met with the HSE last week around the implementation of the 2022 [NCHD] agreement and despite the verification process having commenced in November, the HSE were not in a position to provide any details as to compliance or not with the Organisation of Working Time Act (OWTA)/European Working Time Directive (EWTD) or with the 2022 agreement.”

“They have not levied any sanctions or taken any actions based on this process. The IMO is extremely concerned at the lack of progress and is seeking specific updates from the HSE in this respect.”

The union is currently undertaking an NCHD survey to identify the extent of sites’ non-compliance with contractual rights. It recently stated that 77 per cent of NCHDs reported routinely working above the maximum 48-hour working week.

The final report of the national NCHD taskforce, published on 7 February, stated its support for the “immediate” implementation of a revised OWTA compliance and verification process.

According to the taskforce report: “The revised NCHD OWTA compliance and verification process was introduced by the HSE in November 2023. It sets out the requirements and responsibilities for NCHD OWTA compliance, monitoring, and intervention (where required), for local NCHD OWTA monitoring groups at each site, and at Hospital Group level, along with strategic oversight and support from a national working group as required. The revised process includes guidance on the membership, purpose, role, and actions of each group.”

The taskforce report also advocates that electronic rostering and time and attendance systems should be put in place for NCHDs as a matter of priority, to support delivery of a number of recommendations throughout the report.

For many years, the IMO has disputed the veracity of HSE data on NCHD working hours and levels of compliance with the EWTD.

The union’s agreement with health management in December 2022 included a commitment for a national group that would oversee verification and implementation of measures to reduce NCHD hours, eliminate shifts of 24 hours and achieve compliance with the OWTA. The HSE committed to the introduction of an electronic attendance system across all sites and stated a national timesheet would be used across all settings as an interim measure.

According to the HSE, it is reviewing the taskforce’s final report and putting in place an implementation plan. The governance structure for implementation will “build on” structures put in place following publication of the interim recommendations in April 2023.

On 28 February, a HSE spokesperson said the “new comprehensive” NCHD EWTD/OWTA compliance verification process was actioned from 23 November.

“Due to the Forsa industrial action, EWTD (or OWTA) data has not been returned by sites. As there has now been a resolution to the IR issues, data returns are due to recommence for January 2024 and will be shared and reviewed by all relevant stakeholders including the IMO.”

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