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Locum consultants can earn three times more

HSE says it has specific targets in relation to agency conversion

Agency contract doctors are earning two to three times the salary of long-­serving consultants, the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) has revealed.
IHCA Secretary General Martin Varley told the Oireachtas Health Committee last week that in gross terms, we were paying temporary consultants, who were not on the specialist register, significantly more than permanent consultants.

IHCA Secretary General Martin Varley

This was confirmed under Freedom of Information (FoI) by various employers. “It is a false economy in the financial sense and the wider patient care sense,” he commented.

In terms of value for money, the Health Service Executive (HSE)’s National Director of Human Resources, Rosarii Mannion, told Committee members they had had specific targets over the last number of years in relation to agency conversion. It was not always easy, and it was not always the choice of the individual facilities concerned.

“I can think of one or two hospitals that have quite a preponderance in relation to agency staff, where very dedicated efforts and focused attempts have been made to convert agency staff, and they had been unsuccessful in doing that,” she added. Of 127 hospital consultants currently employed who were not on the relevant specialist register, there were currently 28 employed through an agency.

Agency staff were always a feature of the workplace and always would be, especially for unplanned absences. However, they did not want agency staff ingrained in the workplace as a permanent feature of the workforce. “I have never heard the HSE, as an employer, saying that agency staff provide a value-­for-money solution to us,” Mannion commented.

Prof Frank Murray, Director of the National Doctors Training and Planning (NDTP) unit, said the target was to reduce dependence on locum doctors.

On recruitment and retention, Varley highlighted that in the last decade, the scale of the challenge has become prolonged and for half of the advertised posts there was no competition as the scale of competition was much reduced.

The IHCA had noted increasing numbers of consultants resigning their posts to practise in private hospitals or practise abroad. A new phenomenon noted that more consultants were considering working part-time because of the stress and the lack of resources, and there was no doubt it also came back to the breach of the consultants common contract.

October figures showed problems affected 15 specialties, 20 acute hospitals and 10 mental health services. It was also impacting on tertiary hospitals and cancer centres.

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