Irish Medical Organisation

New Report Outlines Unacceptable Working Environment for Young Doctors

  • A third of our trainees are working unsafe hours
  • Almost 50% of respondents who showed signs of having a mental health issue which would benefit from additional support were involved in an adverse event
  • 40% have reported being bullied


Wednesday, July 3rd, 2019.   A new report from the Medical Council published today lays bare the dangerous hours and high-stress environment that our youngest doctors are forced to endure in our hospitals and clearly demonstrates the upward trend of doctor emigration to health systems that value and support them.

The key issues driving emigration are:
Long and unsafe hours: Over a third (33.5%) of trainee doctors surveyed during 2017 in the “Your Training Counts” report said that they had worked in excess of 60 hours or more in a typical week.

This reinforces what the IMO has heard from its members and contradicts recent figures released by the HSE which suggested that just 2% of Non-Consultant Hospital Doctors (NCHDs) worked unsafe hours. Unsafe working hours affect not only the physical and mental wellbeing of doctors, but can also be detrimental to the quality of care provided to the patients.

Just under half of all respondents (47.8%) who showed signs of having a mental health issue that would benefit from additional support were involved in an adverse event.  It is clear that within our health system doctors are not being adequately supported following adverse events.  This is bad for our health services, for patients and for doctors.

Two in five trainees reported instances of bullying, and more than half reported that they had seen a colleague harassed or bullied.  The IMO has long campaigned for the HSE to actively engage in a ‘RESPECT’ culture and it is critical that further resources are put into this programme. 

Today’s trainees should be our future Consultant specialists, yet they are struggling within a system that is itself struggling badly to cope with the demands placed upon it.

While other results point to a positive training experience for many of our medical trainees, this survey and the IMO’s own data collated from members should serve as a wake-up call to policy-makers, and act as an impetus to tackle not just our medical recruitment crisis but also our often hidden retention crisis.

Commenting on the report, Irish Medical Organisation President Dr Padraig McGarry said: “The recruitment emergency in our hospitals is very worrying, and we are now seeing the knock-on effects – with far too many doctors working unsafe hours, a growing mental health crisis, and incidences of bullying that are having a lasting effect on our younger doctors and resulting in far too many adverse events taking place.”

“This unacceptable working environment – exacerbated by a huge 30% pay disparity between Consultants appointed before and after 2012 – is unquestionably having a negative effect on our ability to retain our doctors in Ireland.” 

“While this report is very valuable, it is not telling us anything new and we must now as a health service make positive changes to support and encourage our younger doctors. Government have long been aware of the chronic retention problem in our services, yet they continue to ignore the problem which has the inevitable consequences that we in the IMO have warned off repeatedly.”

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