Consultants call for ‘laser-like’ focus on more hospital beds and staff

Minister for Health to address IHCA conference on Saturday as talks on new public-only contract reach crux

Medical consultants have called for a “laser-like focus” on the provision of more beds and senior decision-makers in hospitals.

More than 900 consultant posts are now vacant or filled on a temporary basis, according to the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA).

IHCA members gather on Saturday for the first in-person annual conference in three years, which will be addressed by Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly.

The meeting takes place as long-running talks between the Department of Health and the IHCA on a new public-only contract for consultants come to a head. Both Mr Donnelly and department secretary general Robert Watt said this week they hoped the talks would be concluded early next month.


The Government side sees the new public-only contract as essential to the implementation of Sláintecare reforms to disentangle private healthcare from the public system. However, agreement has yet to be reached on how pay parity will be restored for consultants appointed in the last decade, after the pay for new entrants was cut in 2012.

President of the IHCA, Prof Robert Landers, said the contract negotiations provided an opportunity to incentivise doctors.

“After a decade of turbulence, we should be doing everything possible to unify the health system and make it a place where highly skilled people want to practise.

“For too long, the numbers have been moving in the wrong direction. As a result, morale across the hospital landscape is teetering. Getting these contract discussions right is, therefore, a watershed moment for those patients waiting too long for care.”

Following Budget 2023, Mr Donnelly promised 250 new beds would be provided next year, and 6,000 extra staff would be recruited.

The Minister has said he believes an additional 2,000 consultants will be needed to increase throughput in the health service.

Prof Landers said he noted the comments by Mr Donnelly and Mr Watt acknowledging retention challenges and the need for extra consultants.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times