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The HSE is piloting a new process in which consultants are recruited directly by Hospital Groups rather than through the Public Appointments Service (PAS), the Medical Independent (MI) can report.
The pilot, which is taking place in University of Limerick (UL) Hospitals and RCSI Hospitals, aims to ascertain whether the process of hiring consultants can become faster and more streamlined if Hospital Groups recruit directly.
HSE National Director, Chief Operations, Mr Liam Woods told MI that voluntary hospitals recruit consultants directly rather than going through the PAS and “they tend to recruit more quickly”.
“We are also working with the Public Appointments Service directly to see … are there issues that we within the HSE need to engage in and around approvals [happening] more quickly to assist speedy recruitment. So that is underway right now.”
In 2017, a HSE group chaired by Prof Frank Keane produced a document titled Towards Successful Consultant Recruitment, Appointment and Retention, which aimed to reform the processes for approving, recruiting and appointing consultant posts.
Mr Woods said the HSE is still engaged in implementing the reforms proposed in the report.
According to the IMO and the IHCA, the main factors in consultant recruitment difficulties are pay inequality for consultants appointed post-2012 and working conditions in Irish hospitals.
Mr Woods acknowledged recent research from the RCPI which found that consultant recruitment is being hampered by working conditions in Irish hospitals, such as chronic emergency department overcrowding. The research, conducted by Dr Niamh Humphries, involved interviews with Irish doctors in Australia.
“I think if you look at the Sláintecare proposals and the proposals around future community and acute facilities, we should be looking at creating environments that doctors will feel encouraged to come back into,” said Mr Woods. “We train sufficient numbers of doctors, but we are not retaining them, which is a major challenge for us.”
On what actions the HSE is taking on foot of the RCPI research, Mr Woods said “we need to shift to an increasingly community-delivered service” and invest in specialist services.
“What we are doing is working with the Department of Health and Government to say what kind of investment programme can come forward that will drive those kinds of changes.”