Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Ceisteanna (84)

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

84. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Health the steps taken to address the crisis in recruitment and retention in public hospitals. [5028/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

Notwithstanding significant recruitment and retention challenges, including global shortages, considerable progress has been made in the past five years in growing the numbers of front-line staff working in the public health services, including doctors and nurses, as additional resources have become available.

During 2018, the HSE increased the number of nurses and midwives employed by 867 WTEs (including student nurses) in 2018. Recent pay proposals put forward were a positive step towards making the public health service a more attractive place to work for nurses and midwives.

With regard to consultants, numbers have increased by 125 in the 12 months ending December 2018 to 3,096 whole time equivalents, and by 540 in the 5 years since December 2013. The number of NCHDS has increased by 221 in the 12 months ending December 2018 to 6,552 whole time equivalents, and by 1,544 in the 5 years since December 2013. It is recognised that retention of doctors is critical to the future growth of the medical workforce.

In relation to NCHDs, working is continuing on implementing recommendations made by the MacCraith Group with a focus on certain key recommendations including protected training time, the position of doctors not holding training posts and better coverage of training costs incurred by NCHDs. The HSE's Service Plan for 2019 includes an additional €5 million for meeting training costs incurred by NCHDs in 2019, increasing to €10 million in 2020.

The Public Sector Pay Commission identified difficulties in attracting consultant applications for many posts at present and acknowledged that the pay rates for new entrants had been highlighted as a factor in this. Given its analysis, the Pay 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 between pre-existing consultants and new entrant consultants which has increased following the settlement of the 2008 Consultant Contract claim.

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Department of Health have noted the Commission's views and consideration will need to be given to potential solutions which are in line with public sector pay policy and available budgets. This will be a significant challenge given the amounts involved.