Health recruitment difficulties must be tackled in pay talks - unions

Doctors, nurses and midwives accuse Government of ‘head in the sand’ approach on recruitment

Doctors, nurses and midwives are to seek special pay incentives as part of the forthcoming talks on a new public service agreement to tackle staff recruitment and retention difficulties in the health sector.

Unions representing more than 50,000 doctors, nurses and midwives argued that a one-size-fits-all approach to a new public service pay deal would not be sufficient.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) and the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) said on Tuesday that any new agreement must allow for the provision of "special measures" in the health sector to tackle staff recruitment and retention problems.

They accused the Government of having a “ head in the sand” approach to the manpower crisis in hospitals, community and mental health services.


The unions claimed the HSE was “no longer an employer of choice” for a growing number of doctors, nurses and midwives whose skills were in demand abroad.

The three unions said there were currently 400 hospital consultant posts vacant and there were still 3,200 fewer nurses and midwives in place than there were in 2008.

Nurses are seeking increases of 10 per cent - 12 per cent to bring their pay into line with other graduate entry professions in the health service such as physiotherapists, occupational therapists and dieticians.

The IMO said it wanted the pay parity for consultants recruited after 2013 with those appointed before that date. It said efforts that were made subsequently to ameliorate the 30 per cent pay cut imposed on recently-appointed consultants was not sufficient. The IMO also wants a revised contract for non-consultant doctors as well as new education and training supports.

IMO chief operations officer Susan Clyne said: "We are going to have to start competing internationally. We are going to have to recognise what other countries, what other health systems are willing to pay. "

The three unions said the shortage of doctors, nurses and midwives was “ leading to unsafe working practices and negatively impacting on patients in relation to access and waiting times for services, operations and out-patient appointments”.

The president of the IMO Dr Anne Hogan said that of those doctors who commenced their intern year in 2011, a total of 45 per cent had left the country within five years. She maintained the situation was deteriorating rapidly.

INMO president Martina Harkin Kelly said the unions wanted a special module to be incorporated into the forthcoming talks to deal specifically with the recruitment and retention crisis in the health service including the provision of incentives.

INMO general secretary Liam Doran said there should be two strands in the forthcoming talks; one that would deal with pay restoration and another process to deliver progress on the recruitment and retention issue.

“That is not taking money away from any other public servant. It is in addition to it. The health service needs it. We are in crisis. It is in the national interest that this recruitment and retention issue is solved.”

“We have consistently said we are not going to wait around for three more years. We are now engaging in a process and that process has to deliver. “

Mr Doran said while nurses did not believe they would come out of the talks with the Government next week with an immediate X per cent rise, the clock was ticking and the time was short.

"A meandering process that delivers nothing, will not suffice. We have to have an engagement which quite clearly has pay at its centre and which quite clearly indicates that coming out of that process, it will deliver within a short time frame the additional pay, ,the improved conditions and education supports that are required for our respective professions to stay in Ireland. "

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is the former Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent