Young doctors still being driven abroad by conditions

Poor working conditions, training, and career opportunities are still driving young doctors from Ireland, it has emerged.

A report from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland entitled Retaining Our Doctors found that progress to improve training and working conditions is either at a standstill or getting worse.

Some measures introduced in 2015 to retain Ireland’s non-consultant hospital doctor trainees are now having a positive effect.

However, important root causes of why many young doctors emigrate are still not being addressed. The report includes preliminary findings on training and working conditions from a 2018 survey of more than 1,500 non-consultant hospital doctors.

It reveals that over 30% of trainee doctors report improvements in the supervision of their training and better mentoring supports.

However, one in five trainees says supervision and mentoring are worse and there has been little improvement in designated training time.

Also, more than half report that the financial costs in undertaking training courses, much of which are mandatory, are increasing.

The research confirms that poor working conditions persist, with trainees continuing to be required to complete ‘non-core tasks’ that divert them from patient care and training.

Over 50% of trainee doctors report that staffing levels and work-related stress have become worse, or much worse.

It also confirms earlier research that poor training and working conditions continue to be associated with an intention to go abroad and not return.

According to 65% of those planning to leave Ireland for good, the level of stress in their workplace is “worse or much worse”, compared to 43% of those planning to make long-term careers in Ireland.

Head of the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health Medicine at RCSI, Ruairi Brugha, led the research group for the last six years.

Prof Brugha said there was some good news about doctor emigration.

“Only 14% of trainees said they planned to go abroad and not return; 42% said they planned to go abroad and then return to practice medicine in Ireland; 41% planned to remain here; and 3% planned to leave medicine,” he said.

The finding that 83% of young doctors wanted, ultimately, to make their careers in Ireland was positive, he said.

Addressing the root causes, including establishing more consultant posts to implement the policy of a consultant-delivered health service would, ultimately, come down to”political commitment”.

The report summarises six years of medical workforce research from the RCSI, supplemented by routine data from the HSE’s National Doctor Training and Planning Unit and the Medical Council.


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