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WRC evaluating NCHD working hours

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) has begun a process evaluating NCHD working hours at two hospitals  following a request from the IMO, the Medical Independent (MI) understands.

This is due to the union’s ongoing concerns about the accuracy of European Working Time Directive (EWTD) compliance data published by the HSE.

Mr Anthony Owens, IMO Director of Industrial Relations (Consultants and NCHDs), told MI: “I understand they have visited University Hospital Kerry and Beaumont [Hospital]. I don’t know the outcome of those visits because it is a process the WRC guards very closely, but I understand those visits have taken place.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation said that the WRC “does not comment on individual cases or investigations”.

Mr Owens underlined that the IMO’s NCHD committee is “very concerned” about current working hours. In April, at the committee’s national meeting, Chair Dr Paddy Hillery referred to “increasing stories” of NCHDs working shifts in excess of 36 hours.

As of June 2019, HSE figures show compliance at 97 per cent for the 24-hour maximum shift and 83 per cent for the average 48-hour week. However, official data also shows significant deficits in compliance, including just 17 per cent of interns at Beaumont Hospital recorded as compliant with the 48-hour average week in July (compared with 70 per cent in June) and 36 per cent of interns at the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital (compared with 76 per cent in June).

The Medical Council’s latest Your Training Counts report, which collected data in 2017, found that over one-third of trainee respondents reported working 60 hours or more in a typical week. Trainees who worked longer hours were more likely to have been involved in an adverse event than those who worked fewer hours.

The IMO conducted its own survey on NCHD working hours, with findings published in its annual report for 2018.

Forty per cent reported working more than 24-hour shifts; over 80 per cent had worked more than 48 hours in a single week; and 35 per cent reported that the means by which working hours were recorded at their work site was not accurate.

The union said it seemed clear that hospitals were, in too many cases, “reporting roster compliance as opposed to actual working hours’ compliance.”

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