Doctors’ strike over long hours
Sir, – RCSI regrets the non-consultant hospital doctors (NCHDs) felt compelled to take industrial action, but we understand their concerns and the urgent need to have the issue of long working hours addressed, in the interest of patient safety and the health and well-being of NCHDs. RCSI supports the view that there should be a limitation of hospital-based working hours to 24.
The introduction of the European Working Time Directive (EWTD) is very challenging in disciplines such as surgery. The EWTD rightly seeks to ensure a safe and healthy work-life balance for all people at work. In our view, the parties should work together towards agreeing a more creative application of the EWTD which would balance the need for continuity of patient care and the training requirements of junior doctors.
Feedback from our trainees indicates the overall length of the training programme, the uncertainty around employment prospects and the quality of the training experience in some training posts is making a career in surgery less attractive.
To address these concerns we are launching a new training programme which shortens the period of training required and enhances the training experience.
Because the EWTD will reduce the amount of on-site work by NCHDs, innovative approaches are required to achieve a high quality consultant delivered service. This will involve some routine work being reassigned to other grades to allow training time within hospitals to be used for the most important tasks.
The RCSI has undertaken to maximise the level of surgical skills training and didactic teaching which takes place outside of the hospital setting so as to minimise the training impact of any EWTD restrictions.
For the past four years the college has worked with the HSE through the National Surgery Programme to address the needs of elective and emergency surgical patients. We have also worked to improve the safety and efficiency of the operating theatre environment.
It is vital healthcare frontline staff, hospital groups, HSE, the Department of Health and RCSI – continue to work together to implement these plans. – Yours, etc,
Prof PATRICK J BROE,
Royal College of Surgeons in
St Stephen’s Green,