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Occupational medicine sought more training places amid ‘manpower crisis’

The RCPI’s Faculty of Occupational Medicine warned the HSE in November it did not have funding for first year trainee places against the backdrop of a manpower “crisis”.

This month, a Faculty spokesperson told the Medical Independent (MI) “we have three SpRs starting in three funded posts on the first year of higher specialist training (HST) in occupational medicine this July. None of these SpRs are returning to training, but instead have completed their BST [basic specialist training] and [are] progressing to HST as expected.”

The Faculty had previously been concerned there could be no vacancies in July.

On 15 November, the then Dean of the Faculty Dr Blánaid Hayes informed the Director of HSE National Doctors Training and Planning (NDTP), Prof Frank Murray, that the Faculty was requesting an increase in the intake number from two to four trainees. She wrote that the Faculty had capacity and training sites were identified.

“The specialty is facing a crisis in manpower and to address this issue it is necessary to increase the output of the training programme,” according to Dr Hayes’s letter, which was obtained by MI following a Freedom of Information request to the HSE.

“If we do not get funding for the extra two posts this year, then we do not have funding or places for first year trainees on the scheme and cannot complete a recruitment drive for July 2019, which will have knock on consequences for the programme for years to come.

“We have only one trainee exiting from the funded posts from NDTP in 2019 and we have a doctor on prospective approved training … who is returning to the scheme. Therefore, if we do not get increased funding from NDTP we won’t be able to advertise or recruit more trainees.”

Generally, places only become available on the scheme (at first year) when trainees exit at the other end.  This exit is not always predictable as people can spend longer than four years on the scheme (eg, due to maternity leave, sick leave or other leave of absence).

Meanwhile, the Faculty has set up an expert advisory group which is considering the various models of care for occupational medicine in Ireland. This work will inform the Faculty’s workforce plan.

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