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Number of ‘non-specialist’ consultants remains static

There has been no significant change in the past six months in the number of consultants employed by the HSE who are not on the Medical Council’s specialist register. As of 11 October, there were 105 consultants employed by the HSE not on the specialist register, according to new information provided to the Medical Independent (MI). The figures are the first available since late April as the cyberattack disrupted the DIME (Doctors Integrated Management E-system) from which the data is extracted.

The 105 figure represents a small decrease from 109 at the end of April, which was previously reported in MI. Following HSE site visits in 2018/2019, some 153 consultants were found not to be specialist-registered. “Currently there are 3,723 consultant application advisory committee-approved consultant posts,” said a HSE spokesperson. “DIME is dependent on clinical sites inputting details on their consultant workforce and therefore there may be variances and gaps in the data supplied to that held within clinical sites.”

General medicine accounts for the highest number of doctors not on the specialist register, at 32. This is followed by psychiatry with 23, surgery with 17, anaesthesiology with 11, emergency medicine with seven, obstetrics and gynaecology with five, paediatrics with four, radiology with four, and pathology with two. In terms of Hospital Groups/Community Healthcare Organisations (CHOs) with consultants not on the specialist register, Saolta University Health Care Group and South/South West Hospital Group are joint top with 22; followed by Dublin Midlands Hospital Group with 11; RCSI Hospital Group and CHO 8 have nine consultants each; and Ireland East Hospital Group and University of Limerick Hospital Group have seven each.

The remaining Hospital Groups and CHOs have fewer than seven consultants each not on the specialist register. In July, a HSE spokesperson told MI that when the Regulated Professions (Health and Social Care) (Amendment) Act 2020 is commenced, “it is expected the number of consultants not on the specialist division will continue to reduce.” They said the HSE had “put in place protocols to ensure the number of consultants not on the specialist division do not increase”. In addition, “monthly monitoring” of the number is taking place.

Writing in MI last month on the eve of the IHCA annual conference, Association Secretary General Mr Martin Varley stated that the consultant “recruitment crisis has also manifested itself” in the appointment of doctors to consultant posts who are not on the Medical Council specialist register. “This is a serious indictment of Government policy and is gravely damaging the delivery of timely, quality care to patients, as outlined by the former President of the High Court, Justice Peter Kelly, to then Minister Simon Harris and health service management in May 2018,” according to Mr Varley.

“The issue has more recently been described as ‘very serious’ by the HSE in terms of the risk it poses
to patient safety and quality of care.”

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