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Doubts have emerged as to whether a Government promise to appoint an additional 1,800 frontline health service staff next year will be realised.
Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said in his Budget speech last October that increased exchequer funding would allow for 1,800 additional staff to be recruited, “aimed at a range of frontline services across the acute, mental health, disability, primary and community care sectors”.
But the HSE has said it does not know the number of additional personnel that will be taken on.
“It is too early at this stage to say how many frontline staff will be recruited in 2018, as community healthcare organisations and Hospital Groups are currently working on their workforce requirements for the coming year,” the HSE told The Irish Times.
“However, a large proportion of new development funding identified in the service plan will be used to recruit new staff,” it continued.
Siptu health division organiser Paul Bell said the HSE comments give rise to doubts about whether the 1,800 extra staff promised by Mr Donohoe in the Budget would be recruited. He said the Government needed to clarify exactly what it intended to do in relation to health service staffing levels.
He said the Government also had to bear in mind the number of staff who were leaving the public health service in Ireland.
He said the term “additional staff” had to mean that more people were employed.
The doubts emerged as a new report was submitted to Minister for Health Simon Harris saying progress in implementing many recommendations aimed at overcoming barriers to the recruitment and retention of doctors in Irish hospitals remained slow and uneven.
Three years ago, the working group on medical training and career structure, chaired by DCU president Prof Brian MacCraith, made 25 recommendations on improving graduate retention in the public health system, planning for future needs and realising maximum benefit from State investment.
A new report on the implementation of this review has identified progress in some areas such as the introduction of improved flexible working arrangements, new arrangements for job rotations and the establishment of an initiative for lead non-consultant hospital doctors.
However, it said feedback received through a monitoring group suggested that “progress in implementing many of the recommendations remains slow and/or varies between hospital sites, and that some recommendations, although implemented, have not had the desired outcome for non-consultant hospital doctors”.
The report listed a series of problems raised by medical trainees: “The high costs associated with training and the inadequacy of the training supports in place; concerns over inadequate mentoring; doctors at all grades are over-stretched and under pressure; the difficulty in retaining doctors in service posts; the lack of tangible improvement in the working environment arising from task transfers; and the need to develop flexible training posts.”
The new report said that while many of the recommendations remained to be implemented, in part or in whole, there had been positive developments which have addressed some of the issues raised in relation to recruiting and retaining doctors.
“For example, a careers and training website has been launched, which gives information about each speciality, including details of training pathways and training durations. The HSE has agreed to double the number of family-friendly training places over a three-year period.
“Non-consultant hospital doctor numbers continue to increase, with the recruitment of additional non-consultant hospital doctors.”