The number of consultants working in the public health service continues to grow year on year. It increased by 125 whole time equivalents to 3,121 in the year to the end of May 2019.
The public health service in Ireland operates in a global market for medical specialists where there is a world-wide shortage of specialists. Notwithstanding this shortage, progress continues to be made in attracting and retaining consultants and in addressing improvements in the training, working environment and career pathways for Non Consultant Hospital Doctors in Ireland to encourage the supply of future consultant candidates.
The issue of new entrant pay is being addressed in general terms under the terms of the Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020. The issue has also 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. It did not view the measures announced last September for new entrant public servants generally, as being sufficient to address the degree of pay differential which exists for Consultants.
Given its analysis, the Commission proposed that the Parties to the Public Service Stability Agreement jointly consider what further measures could be taken, over time, to address the pay differential. The proposal of the Commission does need to be addressed. The next step is to engage with the representative organisations of consultants. However, brokering an affordable solution will be a significant challenge, in particular within the context of budgetary pressures and broader public sector policy.