Legal case likely over doctors' hours


The European Commission is likely to take a case against Ireland in the coming months for failing to reduce the long working hours of junior doctors, the HSE has admitted.

In a letter to the Irish Medical Organisation, the HSE has confirmed that the commission is progressing legal action against Ireland for non-compliance with the European Working Time Directive, which limits shifts to 24 hours.

Junior doctors seeking the implementation of the directive stepped up their campaign on Wednesday night at a meeting in Dublin attended by over 400 non-consultant hospital doctors (NCHDs) and medical students.

Threat to strike

They threatened to strike within two months unless the HSE implements firm proposals to cut their shifts and the length of their working week. The meeting agreed to use “whatever means necessary” to achieve their goal of ending long working hours in the health service.

Speakers at the meeting, which was closed to the media, expressed concern about the risks to patient health arising from doctors working excessively long shifts.

The HSE, which is also under pressure from the Health Information and Quality Authority, has offered to meet the IMO and junior doctors on the issue.

It has suggested a number of measures to reduce working hours.