Resolving this issue will require engagement with the IMO reflecting the recommendation of the Public Service Pay Commission that the parties to the Public Service Stability Agreement jointly consider what further measures could be taken over time to address this difficulty, beyond the incremental steps introduced generally for new entrants in 2018.
I published the Report of the Independent Review Group established to examine private activity in public hospitals on the 26 August 2019. The Recommendations of the Group have implications for the contracts under which consultants working in the health service would be employed. When the Report was launched, I committed to consulting with key stakeholders and with my colleagues in Government to examine the implications in more detail. Engagement with the consultants representative bodies will arise following on from the decisions of the Government on the Report's recommendations.
While there are significant recruitment and retention challenges, particularly in certain specialties and less attractive locations, the number of consultants employed (whole time equivalents) has continued to increase on an annual basis, typically by over 100 each year.
It is my view a process should be commenced with the various bodies in the near future. However, any solution has to be realistic and affordable.