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Update: Encouraging Medical Professionals to Take Up Employment in Ireland, 4th August 2015

4th August 2015 - Bernard Durkan TD


DÁIL QUESTION  addressed to the Minister for Health (Leo Varadkar)
by Deputy Bernard J. Durkan
for WRITTEN ANSWER on 09/07/2015   

  *  To ask the Minister for Health the procedurescurrently in place to encourage new qualified medical professionals to take up employment in this jurisdiction; the extent to which he has examined the causes for any reluctance to so do; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

                                                                         Bernard J. Durkan T.D.

The HSE, in conjunction with my Department and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, is currently progressing a range of measures to support the recruitment and retention of consultants, doctors and nurses into the future. The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform announced in the last budget, that he intends to delegate greater autonomy to Departments and Agencies to manage their own staffing levels. The change from the application of a rigid employment control framework, with its particular focus on a moratorium on recruitment and compliance with employment ceilings and targets, to one operating strictly within allocated pay frameworks will allow for recruitment where it is determined that this can achieve more economical service delivery.  

It is important for the Deputy to note that, an extra 475 nurses and midwives have been employed between May 2014 and May 2015. In addition, the HSE is planning to recruit over 600 nurses across a number of nursing disciplines. There is significant work being undertaken to achieve this. This includes recent and ongoing national and local interviewing of General Nurses, Mental Health, Intellectual Disability, Registered Children’s Nurses and Midwives. The HSE has also developed an International Nurse Recruitment Project for filling posts. This initiative is a targeted recruitment drive in the UK, primarily focused on Irish trained nurses who left during the moratorium. In order to facilitate this the services of a recruitment agency has been secured. It is hoped that the first of the interviews will commence in the coming weeks in a number of UK cities with the first nurses due to commence duty in August.  This move is to be welcomed.

There has been a significant increase in the number of consultants (Whole Time Equivalents) since the establishment of the HSE, the number increased by 723 from 1,947 in January 2005 to 2,671 in May 2015. However, there are some specialties in which there is an international shortage and which have been traditionally difficult to fill, regardless of the salary scale. There are also some hospitals to which it has historically been difficult to attract applicants, in particular smaller hospitals. The establishment of Hospital Groups will help to address this difficulty, as this will allow doctors to be appointed as group resources. The number of NCHDS has also increased significantly in recent years. This increase will help to address service needs and progress EWTD compliance, thereby improving the working conditions of doctors.

The ability of the HSE and the health service to attract and retain high quality frontline staff shapes the extent to which the HSE can maintain and develop the range of health services required. The MacCraith Group was established  to carry out a strategic review of medical training and career structures. The Group made a series of recommendations in its three reports aimed at improving the retention of medical graduates in the public health system and importantly, planning for future service needs.  It provided an Interim Report in December 2013 focusing on training. In April 2014 the Group submitted its second report to the then Minister for Health, James Reilly. This second report dealt with medical career structures and pathways following completion of specialist training. The final report of the Group, dealing with workforce planning was submitted to me in June 2014. The implementation of the Group’s recommendations is being actively pursued and monitored. It is noted in particular that revised pay rates for new entrant consultants, incorporating incremental credit for relevant experience and qualifications, were proposed by the LRC in January this year to address the barrier caused by the variation in rates of remuneration between new entrant consultants and their established peers that had emerged since 2012 and that these are now being implemented. Significant progress is also being made in improving the training experience of NCHDs and in improving their working conditions.

With regard to workforce planning, Action 46 of Future Health (DoH, 2012) provides for the Department to work with the HSE to implement an effective approach to workforce planning and development with the objectives of: recruiting and retaining the right mix of staff; training and upskilling the workforce; providing for professional and career development; and creating supportive and healthy workplaces. In 2015, the Department of Health will develop a national integrated strategic framework for health workforce planning, on a cross-sectoral basis. A cross-sectoral Working Group will be convened to develop the framework in the near future. The Group’s deliberations will take into account issues including population ageing. Consultation with key stakeholders will form part of the Group’s work.

I hope this reply proves useful for the Deputy.

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