The Office of the State Pathologist (OSP) is “continuing to work” with the Department of Justice, Faculty of Pathology, and Medical Council, to prepare an application for specialty status for forensic pathology.
Making an application for specialty status was one of recommendations in a 2019 review of the OSP, undertaken by the RCPI.
According to the review, which was commissioned by the Department, the absence of a training pathway “appears to be a major barrier to recruitment and sustainability”.
While it was possible to train abroad, “the concern is that a trainee may not then return,” it noted.
The review outlined that while a forensic pathologist may train through the Royal College of Pathologists, UK, and then register with the UK General Medical Council as a forensic pathologist, in Ireland they would have to register as a histopathologist or on the general division of the Medical Council, “which is where they would have been eligible to register immediately after completion of internship. This would not be considered professionally attractive.”
The OSP currently has staffing of 9.4 whole-time equivalents (WTEs) with one vacancy for a Deputy State Pathologist. The total staffing consists of the Chief State Pathologist, two State Pathologists, one Deputy State Pathologist, one Senior Lab Analyst, 0.6 WTE Higher Executive Officer, one Executive Officer, and 2.8 Clerical Officers.
The OSP has taken on one Deputy State Pathologist (a qualified consultant histopathologist to train in forensic pathology) and will take on a second this year, according to the Department spokesperson.
“The Department has previously experienced challenges in attracting candidates for State pathology roles: This is not unique to Ireland, but rather reflects similar challenges encountered globally.
“The role of Deputy State Pathologist, previously called Acting Deputy State Pathologist, was introduced in order to ensure that a full cohort of pathologists is available to support the service provided by the OSP. In order to be considered for the Deputy role, candidates have to have a consultant level qualification, usually as a histopathologist, and to have been performing medico-legal autopsies throughout their training.
“The successful candidate would be expected to complete a fellowship-style programme in forensic pathology, fully supervised by the Chief State Pathologist and State Pathologists, and so complete their forensic training in a defined period. Upon successful completion of this training, that candidate would then be appointed as a State Pathologist.
“The Deputy State Pathologist is only permitted to undertake autopsies in criminal or homicide cases when they are deemed to have sufficient forensic experience by the Chief State Pathologist.”
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