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Commission urges resolution of consultant pay differential

The report states that “policy responses that may be proposed for new-entrants across the public services generally may not address the degree of pay differential which currently applies to new entrant consultants”.

The Commission has proposed that the parties to the Public Service Stability Agreement jointly consider what further measures could be taken, over time, “to address this difficulty”.

The report notes that there is “a general difficulty” in recruiting consultants with “more significant problems in certain specialties and geographic locations”.

The report states that consultants were “not subject” to the moratorium on recruitment and promotions in the public service (2009-2014) and the number employed “has steadily increased over the last decade”.

However, it notes that “the difference between serving numbers and the establishment number has declined from a surplus of 41 in 2007 to a deficit of 169 in 2017”, suggesting some difficulties in filling approved positions through recruitment.

“In 2017 consultant turnover rates based on HSE data were 7.8 per cent (or 6.6 per cent excluding retirements), this is a reduction of 1.1 per cent compared to the 2016 turnover rate.”

Meanwhile, the report says there has been a “strong and consistent growth” in NCHD numbers.

“The growth in NCHD numbers over the last three years is largely as a result of increased recruitment to achieve European Working Time Directive (EWTD) compliance,” it finds.

The evidence from the Commission’s analysis and various other studies signal that training and promotion opportunities are “the key influencer” of migration and turnover in this group.

The Commission believes the prioritisation of the four key issues in the Seventh Assessment of NCHD Posts will have the potential to deliver improvements in the employment, training environment and family lives of NCHDs. These priority areas are protected training time; refund of fees; transfer of tasks; and position of ‘service grade doctors’ who do not occupy training posts.

The IMO has made an initial response to the report.

The Organisation’s President Dr Peadar Gilligan said there was a very real crisis in recruitment and retention of doctors in Ireland and that Government policy must change to address this.

“The IMO Council will meet later this week to discuss this report in detail following which a detailed response to the report will be sent to the Commission,” said Dr Gilligan. “There are almost 500 vacant consultant posts at present and more NCHDs are emigrating to work and live abroad than ever before. The challenge now is for the Government to devise a realistic response to this crisis which will address the critical shortage of doctors now and in the years ahead.”

The IHCA has said that it welcomes “the confirmation” in the Commission’s report of the “significant crisis in the recruitment and retention of hospital consultants”.

President of the Association, Dr Donal O’Hanlon, said that the “crisis needs to be urgently addressed in order to provide timely and quality care to patients and to resolve the difficulties arising from the failure to fill a significant proportion of consultant posts”.

He added: “The IHCA will be pressing that a resolution of the crisis is immediately put in place given the large number of vacant public hospital posts throughout the acute hospital system. The extreme level of salary discrimination against new entrant consultants is the root cause of the crisis and must be ended without delay.”

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