Medical Council critical of working conditions in health service

Doctors ceasing to practice in Ireland as a result of situation, report says

More than 1,100 doctors left the medical register last year citing reasons such as lack of support, excessive hours and resourcing issues. File Photograph: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

More than 1,100 doctors left the medical register last year citing reasons such as lack of support, excessive hours and resourcing issues. File Photograph: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

 

Poor working conditions and a lack of access to further training is driving hundreds of doctors to cease practice in Ireland, according to a new report.

Greater access on excessive working hours, resourcing issues, workplace bullying, consultant vacancies and doctor wellbeing are called for in the Medical Council report.

More than 1,100 doctors left the medical register last year citing reasons such as lack of support, excessive hours and resourcing issues.

Almost 60 per cent of doctors said they were working more than 40 hours a week, while one-quarter said they were working more than 48 hours.

There were 23,558 doctors on the register at the end of 2019, 85 per cent of whom reported being clinically active in Ireland.

With 78 per cent of non-consultant hospital doctor roles held by Irish graduates, three out of four of those in non-training roles had non-Irish medical degrees.

Ireland’s reliance on foreign-trained doctors remains heavy; for every four Irish graduates registering for the first time, seven international graduates also registered.

Burnout

The report says a collaborative effort is required to support an under-resourced and highly-pressured health service. “Doctors’ wellbeing is paramount and as evidenced, burnout has a significant impact on patient safety.”

Medical Council president Dr Rita Doyle welcomed a decrease in withdrawals in 2019 compared to the previous year, along with recent legal changes to remove barriers to training for non-EU doctors. “However, much remains to be done on making Ireland an attractive long term prospect to our colleagues who completed their medical education outside the EU, and would like to specialise here in their chosen field.” 

Of those leaving to work overseas, three-quarters said they were going to the UK.

“Provision of safe, quality patient care is challenged, as doctors report; working in poorly resourced services, working in excess of the European Working Time Directive hours, poor pay and burnout, said Jantze Cotter of the Medical Council.

“This results in ongoing attrition of Irelands highly trained and experienced medical workforce.”

“The patterns highlighted in previous reports are repeating themselves in 2019 and 2020. Only a commitment of collective, coordinated and planned action across stakeholders will produce solutions,” she said.