HSE could save €26m on 'rest days' for consultants

Wed, Nov 7, 2012, 00:00

The HSE believes it could save €26 million as a result of a Labour Court recommendation on historic rest days for hospital consultants that was issued yesterday.

The recommendation is in relation to moves by management to vary an agreement reached in 1997 that resulted in some consultants carrying forward accumulated rest days of up to one year, which had to be taken before retirement.

The court in its ruling said: “Most consultants avail of their accrued leave and are replaced by a locum in the final year of their employment. However in some cases the HSE, for various reasons, has found it necessary to ask some consultants to act as their own locum whilst they avail of their accrued leave. This in effect means that they are paid double time for the final year of their employment.”

The HSE sought to reduce this accrued historic rest day entitlement by 50 per cent. It argued this was necessary due to constraints on the public finances and to bring costs back in line with the level anticipated in 1997/1998 when the agreement was originally concluded.

The Irish Medical Organisation argued that such a change would be grossly inequitable and a severe infringement of consultants’ rights and contractual entitlements.

The Labour Court said the HSE should revise the proposed 50 per cent reduction to 25 per cent and extend the window in which the leave might be taken from 2018 to 2020.

“The court takes the view that there is a balance to be struck between the rights of the consultants affected and the financial realities facing the HSE in particular and the State and taxpayers in general. In this context the court finds that the HSE has made a reasonable case for reducing the amount of accrued leave to which the affected staff members are entitled. However the court finds that the reductions proposed by the HSE are excessive.”

Not binding

The HSE said last night that the move could save €26 million. It also meant some consultants would have to take the accumulated leave seven years before their retirement.

The Labour Court ruling on this issue was not binding.

However, in a separate binding recommendation under the Croke Park agreement it said that, for the bulk of hospital consultants, compensatory rest periods should only be allowed after they attended a “call out” incident. This should replace the current arrangement whereby compensatory rest was allowed at a fixed rate dependent on the “on call” roster which the consultant worked.

It said the existing arrangements should continue to apply to doctors on 1:1 and 1:2 rosters until these rosters were eliminated through restructuring talks currently under way.

The Irish Hospital Consultants Association last night said it was assessing the Labour Court recommendation and had sought a meeting with HSE management.