I propose to take Questions Nos. 543 and 556 together.
The issue of an adequate number of intern places in the Irish medical system is a priority for my Department and for the HSE. The intern year is an integral part of medical training and a medical practitioner cannot be fully accredited without it. Under the provisions of the Medical Practitioners Act 2007 it is a matter for the HSE to assess, on an annual basis, the number of intern training posts required by the health service. There were 572 intern posts available in Ireland for the July 2012 intake, an increase of almost 70 posts since 2007. All 2012 EU graduates from Irish medical schools who sought an intern post here that year and met the HSE eligibility criteria were successful in securing a post. Indeed, to date there have been sufficient posts for all EU graduates from Irish medical schools and a number of additional posts for some non-EU applicants.
My Department is in regular contact with the HSE in relation to the issue of intern places with the aim, in so far as is possible, of providing a sufficient number of intern places for Irish/EU graduates from Irish medical schools. It should be noted that under EU law intern posts must be open to graduates from other EU countries and the HSE has no control over the numbers applying. The HSE will have approximately 80 additional posts available for interns commencing their training in July 2013. In total there will be in the region of 650 places available for 2013. Furthermore, my Department and the HSE are working towards providing an adequate number of intern posts for the 2014 intake to cater for the increased number of Irish/EU graduates from Irish medical schools that year. The HSE consider that there will be sufficient capacity and funding to ensure that every EU graduate of the six Irish medical schools can access an internship both years.