In July last year, I set up a working group chaired by Professor Brian MacCraith, President of DCU, to carry out a strategic review of the medical training and career structure of NCHDs. I received the interim report of the Group in December which dealt primarily with training issues. The Group is now focusing on career structures and pathways following training and is due to report by the end of March on these issues. The final report of the Group is to be submitted to me by end June 2014. I am confident that this strategic review will, in future years, support the retention of sufficient numbers of doctors trained in Ireland within the system.
It should be noted that there are some specialties, at consultant and NCHD level in which there are international shortages and which have been traditionally difficult to fill. Filling these posts represents a significant challenge given that there is a competitive market. There are also some hospitals to which it has historically been difficult to attract applicants, in particular smaller hospitals that have onerous rosters. The planned establishment of hospital groups should help to address this issue, as this will allow doctors to be appointed as group resources - instead of to just one hospital. Where posts are vacant and suitable candidates cannot be sourced, locums are retained or alternative arrangements are made to ensure service delivery.