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Established in 2002, some 235 applications have been facilitated by the Scheme up to 2014/5 inclusive.
Some 37 applications were made to the Scheme for the training year 2015/16, although nine NCHDs withdrew their applications. Twenty-four of the remaining applicants are being facilitated, according to figures released by the HSE National Doctors Training and Planning (NDTP).
Some 28 applications were made for 2014/5, but two trainees withdrew their submissions. Twenty-four doctors were facilitated. A HSE spokesperson told MI it does not keep records of the reasons for application withdrawals.
The Scheme facilitates the equivalent of 12 whole-time funded places. In 2014/5, there were just over 1,500 higher specialist training posts.
“Admission to the Scheme is for an initial period of one year. Trainees must apply again if they wish to remain for a second year. One year of flexible training equates to six months’ full time,” a HSE spokesperson told MI.
In order for a trainee to access the Scheme, agreement has to be forthcoming from the training body and the clinical site. Additionally, the NDTP does not cover on-call costs. “If a flexible trainee is providing on-call they are remunerated for this directly by the hospital,” said a HSE spokesperson.
For the 2014/5 training year, the Scheme covered basic salary and employers’ PRSI amounting to €820,726.95. The comparative cost in the previous 12 months, when 20 doctors were engaged with the Scheme, was €672,766.64.
Specialties accounting for the highest number of granted applications from 2002/3 to 2014/15 were histopathology (31), anaesthetics (27), paediatrics (23), obstetrics/gynaecology (21), and dermatology (16).
General surgery and ophthalmic surgery represented one granted application each, while five concerned general practice.
The majority of participants have been female, with child-rearing and care of elderly parents being the predominant reasons for granting applications, according to the HSE.
According to the Guide to HSE National Flexible Training Scheme, participation is restricted to a maximum of two years and will only be extended by the NDTP “in exceptional circumstances”.