Irish Medical Organisation

HSE and Government recklessly compromising patient care with recruitment freeze – Irish Medical Organisation (IMO)

  • Recruitment freeze will inevitably and significantly impact on patient care
  • Sends a clear message that our public health services are not funded to meet the needs of patients
  • Doctors (NCHDs) contracts are being unilaterally breached and the IMO will not tolerate such abuse by the employer

Friday 10 November 2023


The HSE and Government are recklessly compromising patient care by today’s announcement that the HSE will further extend the disastrous recruitment freeze announced last month, the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) said today. 


The IMO has already met with the HSE and detailed the serious consequences of the recruitment freeze for NCHDs, where patient care will be impacted and NCHDs will be forced to work hours that are unsafe, illegal and in breach of both the NCHD Contract and legislation on safe working hours. 


We are more than disappointed at the response of the HSE and have sought commitments from them that:


  • NCHDs will not be requested to work unsafe and illegal hours which puts both patients and NCHDs at significant risk
  • All maternity and sick leave will be covered by locum staff to ensure safe staffing levels
  • Existing gaps in medical team rotas will be filled so that NCHDs will not be forced to take on onerous and unsafe commitments in terms of both working hours and on-call rotas


The HSE has for some years now been recruiting doctors from abroad who are providing vital work in keeping our health services working, yet with this freeze there is no certainty that those contracts will be renewed.  

Speaking today, Rachel McNamara, Chair of the IMO Non-Consultant Hospital Doctor (NCHD) Committee, said:

“It speaks volumes of the HSE’s attitude to patients and doctors that outrageous decisions are not just acceptable to them, but doubled down on. The recruitment freeze last month was a huge mistake and we have told them this.


Today’s decision makes things even worse and the HSE made the decision in the full knowledge it will affect patient care. It is unacceptable that the HSE and Government would take this action knowing it will compromise patient care in a very significant way.


Irish doctors are being approached daily by health systems in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK who are desperately trying to encourage them to work in systems that will value, support and respect them.  The response from the HSE and Government is the polar opposite. 


COVID exposed how fragile our services are, yet instead of strengthening the system, the lack of adequate funding is ensuring that we do the exact opposite and are failing patients and healthcare staff yet again.  This is a short-sighted measure, repeating the cost-cutting mistakes of the austerity era that took years to undo despite the obvious consequences.


NCHDs cannot do any more, they are already working excessive hours, under consistent and sustained pressure to plug gaps in the system while at the same time trying to train, study and sit exams.  It’s incomprehensible that the HSE expects them to do more.


We await the HSE response but we are very clear, the IMO will not allow NCHDs to be further exploited and will take all necessary action, including industrial action, to ensure NCHD contracts are honoured and the practice of working unsafe and illegal hours stops.  Patients and those working in our health services  deserve to be treated safely”

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