Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Questions (496)

Michael Harty


496. Deputy Michael Harty asked the Minister for Health his views on the consultant recruitment and retention difficulties experienced by the HSE; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28193/19]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The issue of new entrant consultant pay has been examined by the Public Sector Pay Commission. 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. Research undertaken on its behalf identified a number of relevant factors including relative pay, training opportunities and the lack of attractiveness of specific posts, particularly in smaller hospitals.

The Commission 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 Government accepted the Report of the Commission and recognises that there are significant recruitment and retention challenges in relation to consultant posts. The proposal of the Commission does need to be addressed. The next step is to engage with the representative organisations of medical consultants.

It should also be noted that while pay has an impact in recruitment and retention of consultants, a number of other factors are also important, including, inter alia, opportunities for career development, training opportunities and location. The Commission stated it was strongly supportive of the full implementation of the recommendations of the Strategic Review of Medical Training and Career Structures, the 'MacCraith' recommendations, as they have the potential to resolve many of the issues raised with the Commission relating to recruitment and retention. The Department continues to monitor progress on implementation of these recommendations.

Notwithstanding the current recruitment challenges, the number of consultants working in the public health service continues to grow year on year. It increased by 125 whole time equivalents or just over 4 per cent in the year to the end of May 2019. In the five years to the end of May 2019 the number of consultants has increased by 533 - over 20 per cent - and now stands at 3,121 WTE's.