Demand from medical graduates for intern posts exceeds supply

Shortage prompts authorities to prioritise CAO graduates over international students

Health authorities have privately admitted they do not have enough intern posts to meet demand from medical graduates in Ireland.

Last October the Health Service Executive (HSE) changed the criteria used to select medical graduates to prioritise CAO applicants over non-EU students.

It means that many international students have no guarantee of an intern place despite paying fees of up to €40,000 a year to study medicine here.

Some of those affected are Irish citizens.


The move has prompted allegations of bias by some international students, who say they risk being denied internships despite performing better than some CAO students.

Records released to The Irish Times under the Freedom of Information Act show the decision to prioritise CAO applicants was taken due to rising concern over the availability of quality posts in Irish hospitals and cost issues.

First round

In an internal letter the HSE’s national doctors training and planning unit told senior

Department of Health

officials that a shortage of intern posts had resulted in 11 Irish CAO graduates not gaining intern posts in the first round of offers in 2015.

This was despite it being a national requirement that CAO graduates of Irish medical schools progress to internships in order to be registered with the Medical Council and to enter postgraduate medical training.

It also flagged serious issues with the volume of graduates and the capacity of the system to respond.

“The intern training capacity required to provide posts which meet the range of minimum standards has been exhausted. Additional posts would be reliant on rotations in peripheral units only,” a HSE briefing note states.

“The Medical Council have brought to our attention the quality issues associated with intern training posts in the context of the increase in the total number of intern posts for the July 2015 intake.”

Future years

The HSE stated that it was not possible to accurately predict the number of intern posts required by the Irish health service in future years unless changes are made to the application process.

“We also believe the limit has been reached in terms of the maximum number of posts that is possible while retaining the required standards and quality of the intern experiences.”

It was the HSE’s priority that CAO graduates would be prioritised in the first round of the intern match. It also recommended that a steering group be established to plan for future health service requirements.

Last October the HSE pressed ahead with changes to the entry criteria to the surprise of international students who are graduating,

In a statement last year the HSE said the changes were introduced following consultation with the Department of Health.

“In the setting of a limited number of intern posts, this will ensure that all State-funded graduates may obtain full registration with the Medical Council,” a spokesman said. “They may then enter the training system and the health service workforce in Ireland.”

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times