The HSE is not expected to ban doctors and nurses from taking time off over Christmas when it finalises its winter plan today.

The suggestion by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar faced widespread criticism with calls for him to apologise from the opposition.

He said the health service needed to ensure that “consultants will not be on holidays in the first week of the year. . . and that nurses will not be on leave in the first two weeks of January”.

The Irish Times reports that the HSE will not cancel the leave of medical staff to deal with an expected rise in patient numbers this winter, with not one of the hospital groups saying they would ban leave over the Christmas period.

The Irish Nurses’ and Midwives’ Organisation said it had not been approached by health service management about any additional restrictions on leave.

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