Written Answers. - Consultants Contracts.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

78 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Health and Children the plans, if any, he has to review the medical consultants contracts in view of the lengthening waiting lists; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1852/99]

The hospital consultants' contract was negotiated in 1997 and introduced with effect from 1 January 1998. It is due to be examined again by the Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Sector next year. The provisions of the contract have never been advanced as either contributing to the length of waiting lists or of hindering any initiatives to reduce waiting times. The contract allows hospital managers to monitor the balance between the public and fee-paying elements of a consultant's practice and to take appropriate action if it is not satisfied that the consultant's commitment to public patients is being properly discharged. The contract is explicit in its requirements that a consultant's private practice must not be conducted at the expense of his or her public commitment. Recent guidance issued to health agencies in relation to waiting lists draws the agencies' attention to these provisions and to the need to monitor the mix of public and private patients in public hospitals. Agencies were also requested to ensure that service plans should safeguard equity of access and maintain the agreed proportion of public and private patients treated.