Over 80 doctors working in hospitals not on specialist register, figures show

Consultants’ body to tell Medical Council crisis is due to HSE difficulties recruiting and retaining staff

The Irish Hospital Consultants Association  is to write to the Medical Council about the issue this week. Photograph: Alan Betson

The Irish Hospital Consultants Association is to write to the Medical Council about the issue this week. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

There are now 81 doctors working as consultants in Irish public hospitals who are not on the specialist register of the Medical Council, according to new figures obtained by the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA).

The association said this was a “major issue” as members of the public needed to be sure that they were being treated by doctors who had completed specialist training in their particular areas.

IHCA secretary general Martin Varley said 54 doctors were in temporary posts and 27 were doctors provided to the HSE by agencies for a period of one month or more.

He said the overall figure could be higher when figures for agency doctors contracted for less than one month became known.

The IHCA is to write to the Medical Council about the issue this week, saying such doctors were being employed by public hospitals due to acute difficulties being experienced by the HSE in recruiting and retaining medical staff.

The IHCA claimed that in some cases the least experienced individuals, working remotely without senior consultant peer back up, were performing high-risk exploratory surgery for abdominal pains.

The IHCA maintains that much of the recruitment and retention problems stem from the Government unilaterally refusing to pay salaries it agreed in 2008 as part of a new contract, and also from its introduction of a 30 per cent pay cut for senior doctors recruited after October 2012.

Served summons

Mr Varley said more than 700 consultants had now served summons on their employers over failure to pay the 2008 contract salary levels.

High Court hearings in the first 10 cases were scheduled to commence next February, he added.

The HSE previously estimated in a worst -case scenario, losing these court actions could cost up to €600 million.

Mr Varley also revealed that one doctor is taking a case alleging discrimination against the lower pay rates for recent entrants.

He said this case would initially commence in the Workplace Relations Commission, and could ultimately go to the Labour Court and the High Court.

He said consultants appointed on lower rates after 2012 could lose about €100,000 in earnings over their first nine years in post compared to those appointed before that point.