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Consultant and GP recruitment challenges for enhanced community care programme

By David Lynch - 05th Mar 2023

enhanced community care

Difficulties with GP and consultant recruitment for the enhanced community care (ECC) programme have recently been discussed between the Department of Health and the HSE, this newspaper understands.

In 2021 the HSE commenced the implementation of the ECC programme, which aims to deliver increased levels of healthcare and service delivery reoriented towards general practice, primary care, and community-based services.

The issue of recruitment was raised at the November meeting of the Sláintecare Programme Board, which is co-chaired by the Secretary General of the Department and the HSE CEO.

“In terms of recruitment, it was noted that it is getting more difficult to recruit, especially to those areas where patient needs are particularly complex,” according to meeting minutes.

A Department spokesperson told the Medical Independent (MI) that recruitment to the ECC has “made good progress to date” with approximately 2,500 staff already on-board or at an advanced stage of recruitment, an achievement of 71 per cent of the total recruitment of 3,500 whole-time equivalents (WTEs) to the programme.

However, the spokesperson confirmed “challenges remain” with regards to recruitment of staff in specialist areas of clinical practice, “such as the ICPOP [integrated care programme for older persons] consultant and ICPCD [integrated care programme for chronic disease] consultant staff”.

The spokesperson added there were also recruitment difficulties with some health and social care professional and nursing roles, “and with regards to recruitment
of the GP Leads” for the community healthcare networks (CHNs).

“However, it is important to note that 77 per cent of the consultants for ICPOP, 67 per cent of the GP Leads and 60 per cent of the ICPCD consultants have been recruited or are at an advanced stage of the recruitment process.”

The ECC is establishing CHNs and community specialist teams (CSTs) to provide care to older people and those with chronic disease in primary and community settings. Each CHN services a population of around 50,000 people, with each CST aligned to the local acute hospital, and servicing three CHNs. 

The Department spokesperson told MI the HSE is engaging with GP representative organisations to encourage uptake of GP Lead roles within the CHNs.

“Other recruitment and retention measures, such as rotational opportunities for consultant grade staff, which have proven effective in other areas of clinical practice are also being examined.” 

Separately, the spokesperson said the Sláintecare 2022 progress report “is undergoing final stages of approval” and is expected to be published in the coming weeks.

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