I thank the Deputy for the question. I was not sure from the question, as initially tabled, whether the Deputy was talking about medical graduates or health and social care graduates. I will try to cover all of them in line with his introductory remarks. As he has quite rightly said, recruitment of qualified health and social care graduates, medical graduates, and nursing and midwifery graduates is an absolute priority for me and for the Government. The HSE has a process in place to offer newly qualified nursing and midwifery graduates permanent positions managed through the hospital group and CHO networks. All nursing and midwifery graduates were offered permanent contracts in 2020 and 2021 and the same is planned for 2022.
The HSE provides opportunities to graduates on an annual basis for occupational therapy, physiotherapy, speech and language therapist and dietetics directly through the colleges prior to their final examinations. Following interview, the successful applicants are placed on a panel. Any approved vacancies that arise are notified to this panel. Candidates indicate their interest in specific jobs, and this covers all locations and different care settings. Since the start of 2020, 1,123 of these posts have been filled. This is encouraging. A breakdown of these is as follows: occupational therapists, 356; physiotherapists, 354; speech and language therapists, 335; and dieticians, 78.
To date, there are 365 posts that have remained unfilled - we need to be cognisant of these - after being offered to the panels on multiple occasions. These unfilled jobs are across all settings and locations. I have asked the HSE and the Department to look further at this. Essentially, we still have fantastic qualified professionals on panels. We have several hundred jobs we are trying to fill. I am advised by the HSE that offers have been made on all of them. It is clearly not working in every case. We want to try to get those filled as well. If the Deputy likes, in my next response I can give him similar detail on the medical graduates.