HSE asked to defer filling posts for 68 consultants

The independent chairman of the talks on a new contract for hospital consultants has asked health service management not to take…

The independent chairman of the talks on a new contract for hospital consultants has asked health service management not to take steps to fill 68 controversial posts, which were advertised on revised terms several weeks ago, until after the middle of September.

Senior counsel Mark Connaughton is seeking to use the interim period for resumed negotiations between the HSE and consultants' organisations on an agreed contract.

In a letter to the parties yesterday, Mr Connaughton asked the HSE "to defer taking any definitive steps in the recruitment of new consultants - setting closing dates for applications, short-listing candidates or conducting interviews - other than would be filled on existing terms and conditions, until after 16 September".

The chairman has also proposed that outside financial advisers be appointed to examine how an agreed ratio of public and private practice could be effectively delivered. The decision by the Government in April to advertise the 68 new posts on revised terms led effectively to the collapse of the negotiations on a new contract.


However, recent meetings between Minister for Health Mary Harney and the Irish Medical Organisation and the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) have sought to breathe new life into the process.

In his letter yesterday, Mr Connaughton said discussions between the parties should begin immediately, with talks initially taking place on a bilateral basis. He said that assuming significant progress was made in the coming weeks, plenary sessions would be arranged. He also proposed that the size of negotiating teams be limited to a "core team".

Mr Connaughton said that there was "unanimity that the recruitment of additional consultants would be beneficial and everyone shares the aspiration that any such appointments be made on agreed terms".

He said that to facilitate this objective he was asked the HSE to defer taking steps to fill the 68 posts until September. "However, I must also acknowledge that there is a pressing need for new consultants to be appointed and it is imperative, if this process succeeds, that appointments should be made at the earliest date thereafter.

"Thus, my proposal does not involve any recommendation regarding general advertisements for consultant posts. Further I could not expect the employing authorities to defer indefinitely the recruitment of new consultants," he said.

The Government has agreed to pay a 2 per cent pay rise which it had withheld from about 1,600 hospital consultants for the last several weeks because they were taking part in industrial action.

In a letter to the IHCA yesterday, the Department of Health said that it had agreed to sanction the increase after the association indicated that its industrial action had been suspended indefinitely.

The payment of the increase will be backdated to the beginning of June.

The department had refused to pay the increase because of the industrial action.