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Non-specialists are ‘compromising patient safety’

17 May 2017

The IHCA has expressed serious concern over an increasing number of temporary hospital consultant posts that are being filled by doctors who are not eligible to be on the Medical Council’s Specialist Register — a practice it says violates the most basic professional standards within the public health service.

The President of the IHCA this week insisted the practice by the State and public hospitals was in breach of the basic requirements for filling consultant posts and must stop immediately, maintaining that the crisis in the recruitment and retention of consultants, which was acknowledged last week by the Public Service Pay Commission (PSPC), could not be resolved at the expense of patient safety.

“It is not acceptable that doctors who do not have the essential specialist training, skills and expertise are treating patients as consultants in our acute health services,” Dr Tom Ryan commented. “This compromises and undermines the quality and safety of care that is provided to patients in our hospitals.”

The IHCA is calling on the Minister for Health and the HSE to publish details on the number of consultant posts filled by doctors who are not on the Specialist Register for the speciality in which they are practising.

The Association has welcomed the PSPC’s acknowledgement that there is a recruitment and retention crisis for hospital consultants and particularly for the mental health services. Dr Ryan said that the IHCA had provided irrefutable evidence to the Commission that the Irish health service had become uncompetitive in recruiting and retaining the number and calibre of consultants that were required to provide timely care to patients.

He said that this was clear from the fact that 15 per cent of the permanent consultant posts in our acute services were unfilled on a permanent basis, unlike any other professional group in the civil or public services. As a result, hospitals were paying multiples of the official salaries for temporary and agency consultants.

It was abundantly clear that in order to address the recruitment and retention crisis, the FEMPI salary cuts imposed on consultants since 2009 must be reversed, the IHCA President stressed.

In addition, the 2008 Consultant Contract terms must be honoured in full and the discrimination against new entrant consultants must be brought to an end.

lloyd.mudiwa@imt.ie

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