I have asked the HSE to respond directly to the Deputy in relation to the details sought on unfilled posts.
The Government is committed to increasing the consultant workforce to support service delivery and to move to a consultant delivered service. While the Pay Commission noted that the incremental measures being introduced for new entrants would not be sufficient to bridge the gap between the pay of existing and new entrant consultants, new entrant consultants will benefit from these measures.
The HSE is also committed to supporting consultant recruitment and retention, pursuing a number of initiatives including improvements to the recruitment process, offering contracts to the Hospital Group rather than individual sites and focusing on family friendly arrangements.
At the end of December 2018 there were 3,096 whole time equivalent consultants working in the public health services, the highest number in the history of the State. Notwithstanding recruitment and retention challenges, the number of consultants has increased by 125 in the 12 months to end December 2018 and by 540 in the past five years. There are approximately 450 consultant posts which are not filled on a permanent basis at present. Most of these posts are filled by locums or temporary staff to support the delivery of essential services.