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Written Answers - Hospital Staff

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 760 No. 3

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 58.  Deputy Willie O’Dea Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea  asked the Minister for Health Information on James Reilly Zoom on James Reilly  the number of hospital consultants in breach of the working time directive; if he is concerned that this may impact on the safe delivery of services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16488/12]

Minister for Health (Deputy James Reilly): Information on James Reilly Zoom on James Reilly Consultants working in the public health service are employed under a number of contracts. Consultants employed under the 1991 and 1997 [720]Consultant Contracts are contracted to work 33 hours a week, while those employed under the 2008 Consultant Contract are contracted to work 37 hours a week.

The European Working Time Directive and related case law from the European Court of Justice define working time as time spent at a place determined by the employer while performing duties on behalf of the employer. This can be summarised as time spent working or on-call on-site. Time spent on-call off-site does not count as working time.

Irrespective of contract, many consultants are liable to provide on-call services and attend on-site outside of contracted hours. Consultants employed on the 2008 Contract may be required formally to provide up to 5 additional hours on Saturdays, Sundays or bank holidays — albeit, to date, this provision has not been activated in other than exceptional circumstances.

While consultants have work schedules documenting contracted hours, they do not formally ‘clock-in’ or participate in other means of recording time spent on-call on-site. The HSE does not therefore hold information regarding average working hours in excess of the 33 or 37 weekly contracted hours. Taking the above into account, the HSE does not have information indicating that any hospital consultant is working an average of more than 48 hours a week calculated over the 6-month reference period.

My immediate priority is to achieve more effective implementation of the 2008 Contract so that patients get faster access to services and achieve better outcomes within the budgets available to hospitals. I believe there is plenty of scope under the existing contract and the Croke Park agreement to achieve greater productivity from consultants, and I am satisfied that this can be achieved, while at the same time meeting the requirements of the working time directive.

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