Members of the IMO's NCHD committee during a press conference today. CHRIS BELLEW/FENNELL PHOTOGRAPHY

IMO's non-consultant hospital doctors to ballot for industrial action

A survey published today shows that 96% of NCHDs have been required to work over 48 hours a week.

THE IRISH MEDICAL Organisation (IMO) is to launch a ballot of its non-consultant hospital doctor (NCHD) members to undertake industrial action.

The IMO said that NCHDs are “demoralised, frustrated and angry” over long standing concerns about working conditions, safe hours and routine breaches of contract.

A survey published today shows that 96% of NCHDs have been required to work over 48 hours a week – many on multiple occasions, while 40% of NCHDs have been required to work over 24 hours in one shift.

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The survey, which was carried out by the IMO, also found that NCHDs are routinely not paid for all hours worked.

91% of NCHDs said they feel that they have little or no control over their work life, while 78% said they were at “high-risk” of burnout. 70% said they are dissatisfied with their work-life balance.

Chair of the NCHD committee of the IMO Dr John Cannon has warned that industrial action by NCHDs was likely if there is not an “urgent and serious” engagement by the HSE.

In a statement, he said: “The IMO NCHD committee is launching a ballot of members to seek approval for industrial action up to and including strike action in the event that the HSE does not engage meaningfully to resolve the situation and implement much needed reform.”

While no doctor ever wants to go out on strike, the committee feels that to allow the current situation to continue would pose a substantial and unacceptable risk to patient safety. The committee is therefore recommending members to vote in favour of industrial action up to and including strike action. 

The IMO today launched a new campaign to rally support for reforms for non-consultant hospital doctors.

The organisation said that 7,500 NCHDs account for two thirds of the medical workforce in Irish hospitals.

“It is clear from our research that the HSE has little concern for the physical and mental wellbeing of NCHDs. It is an incredibly short-sighted attitude as we know that these working conditions pose significant risks to patient safety,” Cannon said.

He warned that the NCHD crisis was “feeding directly into the shortage of desperately needed consultants in the Irish health services”.

“This is a crisis for patients and health care services. Patients are being seen by doctors who are exhausted, stressed and under pressure,” he said.

“At a time when we struggle to recruit desperately needed consultants, we are driving away the next generation who we need to fill those roles in the coming years. Today this is a crisis for our NCHDs, but it promises an even greater crisis for the wider health service if it is not addressed urgently.”

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