Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Questions (370)

Micheál Martin


370. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Health the status of the recruitment of consultants; if the overall vacancy rate is improving; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21493/19]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The number of consultants working in the public health service continues to grow year on year. It increased by 119 whole time equivalents or 4% in the year to the end of March 2019. In the five years to the end of March 2019 the number of consultants has increased by 529 - over 20% - and now stands at 3,110 WTE's.

However, the public health service in Ireland operates in a global market for medical specialists where there is a world-wide shortage of specialists. There are significant recruitment challenges, particularly in filing posts in certain specialties and locations. Many of these vacancies are filled on a locum or agency basis to support service delivery.

The issue has been examined by the Public Sector Pay Commission in relation to consultants.  The Commission found that evidence of recruitment campaigns with very low levels of applications was indicative of on-going difficulties in regard to recruitment of consultants.  The Commission also acknowledged that the difference in pay between the pre-existing and new entrant consultants is greater than for other categories of public servants. Ultimately, the Commission proposed that the Parties to the Public Service Stability Agreement jointly consider what further measures could be taken, over time, to address this difficulty.

I have asked the HSE to reply directly to the Deputy in relation to current vacancy rates.