Sir, – Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly’s announcement of a further increase in college places for students to study medicine will be welcomed by students, but more graduates does not mean more qualified doctors. Graduates have to be trained and qualified in one of approximately 49 different specialities, including general practice. It is an increase in qualified hospital consultants we need urgently. Unfortunately, the number of training places for hospital medicine are totally inadequate to meet the needs of our hospitals and to satisfy the number of graduates, with hundreds of our disappointed graduates emigrating annually because they haven’t been offered places on training schemes.
The HSE offers approximately 100 places each year on a five-year higher specialist training scheme in a variety of a total of 48 specialities in hospital medicine; ie an average of two per year qualifying in each speciality. Some specialties take only one trainee, others take more.
With figures showing up to 900 hospital consultant posts vacant in our public hospitals, and no suitability qualified applicants, the numbers being trained are seriously inadequate. If there were to be no retirements or no consultants leaving the public system to enter the private system, it would take nine years to catch up. With current training numbers, who knows?
Any of our thousands of young hospital doctors will tell you how difficult it is to get a place on one of these higher specialist training schemes for hospital medicine. Ireland has over 800 interns, all of whom are seeking training. Previously, international students could not apply for training in Ireland but this was changed during Covid.
Currently, each year the HSE offers 280 places on a general practice training scheme, to registered graduates. This has been increased from 150 some years ago. This year I believe there were 750 applications for the 280 places.
Figures of 280 GPs qualifying annually plus 100 consultants doesn’t match 800 graduates. It leaves a serious number, more than half, without any further training. Hence the exodus to Australia, Canada, etc.
While GP training places have increased over the years, it’s quite incredible that specialist training for hospital consultants has not increased pro rata. I keep wondering what the reason is for this.
One would have to wonder if our Government wants to staff its hospitals with a large proportion of non-consultant hospital doctors, who are poorly paid and work extra hours overtime without pay, instead of having a greater number of highly qualified and highly paid hospital consultants. – Yours, etc,