Patient care deteriorating due to failure of Government to stop ongoing discrimination against new entrant consultants

Tuesday, 19th March 2019
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Government policy is destroying the fabric of hospital care in Ireland according to the IHCA


19th March, 2019:  The standard of patient care in Ireland’s public hospitals is deteriorating sharply according to a new survey of hospital consultants which was undertaken by the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA). Nearly 90% of consultants surveyed confirmed that the lack of suitably qualified Consultants is resulting in a decline in the standard of patient care with a similar number saying that hospitals will be unable to sustain present levels of clinical services for patients if the Consultant recruitment and retention crisis is not resolved urgently.


The IHCA recently surveyed more than 900 Consultant members and 95% confirmed that the failure to fill permanent Consultant posts in public hospitals is directly attributable to the ongoing pay discrimination against new hospital Consultants.


“These survey results are stark and overwhelming. Patient care and safety is being damaged due to Government policy which has resulted in one fifth of the permanent consultant posts in our hospitals being unfilled. Ultimately patients are paying the price. It is no coincidence that we have some of the longest hospital waiting lists in Europe, with over 500,000 people waiting for consultant outpatient appointments. Government policy is destroying the fabric of hospital care for patients in Ireland,” said IHCA President, Dr Donal O’Hanlon. 


The IHCA survey also revealed that:

  • Around three quarters of the respondent consultants confirm patient waiting times have all deteriorated over the past year due to vacant consultant posts
    • Outpatient Consultant appointments (78%),
    • Inpatient/day-case appointments (71%)
    • Diagnostic services (68%).


  • Consultants do not believe waiting times will improve in the immediate future, with 80% confirming that patients will see waiting lists for outpatient Consultant appointments increase over the next 12 months if Consultant posts are not filled. Waiting lists for inpatient/day-case appointments and diagnostics are also expected to increase, according to 72% and 73% respectively of those surveyed.


  • More than half of respondents (53%) identify between 1 and 3 permanent consultant posts in their specialty in their hospital as currently filled on a temporary, locum or agency basis, with a further 12% identifying 4 or more such posts.


  • In addition, a third (32%) confirm that there are between 1 and 3 permanent approved Consultant posts in their department currently vacant.


Overall, more than half of respondents (54%) are not confident that if there is a Consultant vacancy in their specialty that it will be filled with a suitability qualified candidate, which could restrict the delivery and quality of care to patients.


“The health service has failed to fill up to one third of the Consultant posts advertised in recent years, and more than one third of posts advertised received zero or just one application. This is directly due to the deliberate Government discrimination against new entrant consultants. The Government must end this discrimination by restoring pay parity, so that the required number of highly trained specialists are attracted to take up the increasing number of vacant consultant posts in our hospitals. All patients need timely high-quality care and this is not possible without the required number of consultants,” added Dr O’Hanlon.




For further information contact:

James Dunny, FleishmanHillard                  086 388 3903


Sample of anonymised comments from individual Consultants on how deficits in Consultant staffing is impacting on patient services:


  • “Waiting times are now over 3 years for outpatients.”


  • “It has become a new ‘normality’ that I need to apologise to patients for increasing waiting period in clinics and for being unable to see those patients after commencing therapies.”


  • “Many children that need timely treatment have to wait undue lengths of time for treatment under GA – sometimes 2 years.”


  • “Backlog for breast screening will lead to delayed cancer diagnosis and treatment.”


  • “Four year waiting list for outpatients; 80 new referrals in 3 weeks. Absolutely impossible to continue at this level without further staffing. My post was unfilled for 6 years. Two previous candidates declined to return to Ireland.”


  • “Our hospital is now at a tipping point with regard to consultant recruitment. If we cannot recruit another consultant physician shortly, we are likely to have to close our doors out of hours.”


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