Hospital staffing crisis ‘worsening’ as number of unfilled consultant posts rises to 837

ireland
Hospital Staffing Crisis ‘Worsening’ As Number Of Unfilled Consultant Posts Rises To 837 Hospital Staffing Crisis ‘Worsening’ As Number Of Unfilled Consultant Posts Rises To 837
The Irish Hospital Consultants Association said the number of posts that are vacant or filled on a temporary, locum or agency basis has reached an all-time high. Photo: PA
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Ireland’s hospital staffing crisis is “worsening,” according to the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA), as the number of unfilled consultant posts has risen to 837.

New data from the HSE shows the number of approved consultant posts that are vacant or filled on a temporary, locum or agency basis has reached the all-time high.

The IHCA said this means more than a fifth (22 per cent) of all permanent consultant posts are now not filled as needed - an increase of 110 posts, or 15 per cent, since May 2021.

“The fact that now over 800 posts cannot be filled as needed is an unequivocal signal to Government and health service management that the current conditions in Ireland’s system do not create an environment that skilled medical and surgical specialists want to work in,” said IHCA President Professor Alan Irvine.

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He warned waiting times and lists “will get longer and longer” without a sufficient number of permanent specialist consultants in place to assess and treat patients.

“Irish patients are not getting the hospital and mental health treatment that they need; they are simply being added to an ever-increasing waiting list, which is leading to poorer outcomes for patients,” Prof Irvine added.

Vacancies

Of the unfilled consultant posts, HSE figures show 412 permanent posts are vacant, with an additional five posts of unknown status and likely vacant, as of February 7th.

A further 354 permanent posts are currently filled by temporary or locum consultants, and another 66 posts are currently filled on an agency basis.

The specialities with the largest number of consultant posts filled on a temporary, locum or agency basis are medicine (99 posts), psychiatry (63 posts), surgery (61 posts) and anaesthesiology (37 posts).

The IHCA noted the “worsening consultant recruitment and retention crisis” comes as almost 900,000 people — equivalent to 18 per cent of the population — are on some form of hospital waiting list published by the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF).

Prof Irvine said: “There are two immediate steps needed to stem the growing vacancies and help tackle patient waiting times.

“Firstly, the Government must appoint a new Independent Chair, agreed with the representative organisations, to oversee the new consultant contract negotiations, which have stalled with no engagement since last December.

“Secondly, the Government must end the 2012 consultant pay disparity immediately. The approach it has taken over the past decade has severely undermined trust and is driving our highly trained medical and surgical specialists abroad, leaving our patients without access to the care they need and deserve.”

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