Call for consultants who are ‘acting up’ to wear special ID

Concern over 70-plus doctors in consultant posts who are not on register of specialists

 Minister for Health Simon Harris: has said patients should be informed by the HSE if consultants providing them care in public hospitals did not have specialist training and were not on the register of specialists.   Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Minister for Health Simon Harris: has said patients should be informed by the HSE if consultants providing them care in public hospitals did not have specialist training and were not on the register of specialists. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

Doctors working in consultant posts who are not on the Medical Council’s register of specialists may have to wear identification in future which would inform patients and others that they are in “acting up” roles.

The Department of Health told the Oireachtas Health Committee last week that there were 73 consultants working in public hospitals who were not on the specialist register.

The committee heard that South Tipperary General Hospital had nine such consultants, almost one-third of the total number of consultants in the hospital. There were six such consultants working in both Cavan General Hospital and University Hospital Kerry.

Politicians and medical organisations have expressed concern about the number of doctors working in consultant roles who are not on the register, which records if people are qualified to work in specialist areas such as surgery or psychiatry.

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

Informing patients

Minister for Health Simon Harris told The Irish Times in December that patients should be informed by the HSE if consultants providing them care in public hospitals did not have specialist training and were not on the register of specialists.

In its reply to a parliamentary question tabled by Fianna Fáil’s health spokesman Billy Kelleher TD, the HSE said: “At all times during the period(s) of acting in consultants posts it must be communicated to patients, clients, staff and any other person dealing with the specialist register/senior register acting that the specialist register/senior register is acting in a consultant position rather than a permanent post holder or a post holder holding specialist division registration. This may be done by way of, for example, their named badge indicating the doctor’s acting status.”

Mr Kelleher said many people “quite rightly believe that it is unacceptable” that doctors without essential specialist training should be treating patients as consultants in acute hospitals around the country.

“Patients must be entitled to know if a consultant treating them is qualified and while I would not so far as to call for L plates, there must be transparency.”

The HSE said it was up to individual hospital management to decide on how to address the issue of informing patients of the status of doctors but that the use of name badges was one option.