Junior doctors to meet today on HSE proposals

IMO describes package to resolve dispute over long working hours as ‘significant’

The junior doctors’ dispute appears to be moving towards resolution with the Irish Medical Organisation  describing as “significant” proposals negotiated with the HSE on cutting long working hours. Photograph: PA

The junior doctors’ dispute appears to be moving towards resolution with the Irish Medical Organisation describing as “significant” proposals negotiated with the HSE on cutting long working hours. Photograph: PA

Mon, Sep 23, 2013, 01:02

The junior doctors’ dispute appears to be moving towards resolution with the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) describing as “significant” proposals negotiated with the HSE on cutting long working hours.

The IMO’s non-consultant hospital doctor (NCHD) committee is expected to order a ballot of junior doctors on the proposals when it meets today.

Last Friday, the organisation suspended for one week a planned hospital strike due to take place this Wednesday at the behest of the Labour Relations Commission after the proposals were agreed between the IMO and HSE.

Yesterday, a spokesman said the IMO would not have agreed to the LRC request to suspend the day of action if the proposals negotiated were not significant. “Ultimately the NCHD committee will decide on the next steps but we believe that the proposals we have negotiated are significant and go a considerable way to addressing our deep concerns on the working hours issue and other important issues for our NCHD members.”

Compliance

Under the proposals, the HSE has agreed to a timetable for implementation of the European working time directive, with compliance beginning from early January 2014, just after the next rotation of junior doctors. The directive provides for a right to work no more than 48 hours in a week.

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform appears to have bought in to the deal by committing to provide whatever resources are needed to ensure implementation of the directive, according to a source close to the talks. The IMO see this concession as particularly significant.

The agreement also provides for a process of independent verification of working hours in each hospital. Junior doctors and the HSE have frequently disagreed over the actual working hours, overtime allowance and shift patterns of doctors in particular hospitals.

Consultant pay

A working group is also to be set up to examine the issue of consultant pay, and in particular the rules that apply when appointments are being made to new consultant positions. Under the Haddington Road agreement, new consultants will be paid €30,000 a year less than before, but junior doctors argue this should not apply to staff already in the NCHD training pipeline. In some cases, doctors occupying senior pre-consultant positions will have to take a pay cut when taking up one of the new consultant posts.

The proposals have met with a mixed response from NCHDs on social media sites, with some junior doctors calling for the strike to go ahead to demand immediate compliance with the European working time directive.

The IMO spokesman welcomed what he described as “a belated engagement” on the part of the HSE.

“Clearly, the HSE is finally accepting that they have to move on this issue and therefore we have an obligation to give the negotiated proposals real and serious consideration. “