Talks on consultants’ cases to continue after surveillance revelations

Private investigators were used to monitor individual doctors’ hours, it has been reported

The cases are due in court this week. Photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

Talks with a view to reaching a settlement between the Government and hospital consultants over a series of court cases that could cost the State hundreds of million of euro are expected to continue this week.

Government sources on Sunday defended the use of private investigators by the State to monitor if consultants were fulfilling their contract hours in the public system, though the issue is likely to heighten tensions between the two sides.

The cases – brought by hospital consultants challenging with withholding of pay rises during the financial crisis – are due in court this week, but settlement negotiations are taking place between the State and lawyers for the doctors.

Private investigators were used to monitor individual doctors' hours, the Sunday Business Post reported, amid concern that some consultants were not fulfilling their contract hours in the public system but were instead treating their private patients.


The Irish Medical Organisation, which represents doctors, said it would be writing to Minister for Health Simon Harris on the issue, but declined to comment further. It did, however, issue a tweet on Sunday in which it said that such tactics would "worsen the consultant manpower crisis".

A spokeswoman for the Irish Hospital Consultant Association said the organisation had no comment to make at this time.

However, one senior Government figure played down the revelations. "Primetime did this last year and everyone said it was public service journalism," the source said.

Not unusual

The use of private investors is not unusual in court cases, they noted. The source also pointed out that the State had social welfare investigators.

But the HSE was opposed to the use of investigators as it feared the practice could damage relations with its employees.

However, the stakes for the public finances in the consultant's case are huge. High Court affidavits for the State have warned that if the case is successful it would have "catastrophic consequences" for health service funding.

The HSE has previously forecast that in a worst-case scenario, about 2,000 consultants could have to be reimbursed, at an ultimate cost of about €700 million gross.

Identical claims

In High Court affidavits on behalf of Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe and others in defence of the cases, it is claimed 700 other consultants have identical claims, and that there are a further 2,280 on the same contract who may also be affected.

Paying all these claims would be “beyond the means and normal budgetary management” and would have “catastrophic consequences for service delivery”, their affidavits argue.

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times