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Concern about doctors without specialist training filling consultant posts

Consultants say these doctors do not have the expertise necessary to make the right decisions for patients.

Image: consultant image via Shutterstock

HOSPITAL CONSULTANTS HAVE expressed concern about the increasing number of temporary consultant posts that are being filled by doctors who do not have the specialist training required for the job.

The Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) said the HSE is filling temporary posts with doctors who are not eligible to be on the Medical Council’s specialist register.

“It is not acceptable that doctors who do not have the essential specialist training, skills and expertise are treating patients as consultants in our acute health services,” commented IHCA president Dr Tom Ryan.

“This compromises and undermines the quality and safety of care that is provided to patients in our hospitals,” he said.

Experience

Speaking to TheJournal.ie. Ryan explained that in order for consultants to get onto the specialist register, they must complete “rigorous training” that is accredited and reviewed by their peers.

“We’ve all travelled and worked abroad and all of this is important for someone to be an independent thinker in a multidisciplinary model who can evaluate their colleagues’ contributions and make the right decisions for patients.”

If they don’t have the depth or breadth of experience they won’t be able to contribute in that situation. The problem is medicine is becoming extraordinarily complex. Cancer care has brought to the fore in Irish medicine the need to multi-disciplinary decision-making. A corner stone for that is having properly trained specialists to look after the patients.

This rigorous process is being bypassed by the HSE, he claimed, as it struggles to fill vacancies in the system.

Timely care

“The crisis in the recruitment and retention of consultants, which was acknowledged last week by the Public Service Pay Commission, cannot be resolved at the expense of patient safety,” Ryan said.

He said the IHCA had provided “irrefutable evidence” to the commission that the Irish health service has become uncompetitive in recruiting and retaining the number and calibre of consultants that are required to provide timely care to patients.

Around 15% of the permanent consultant posts in our acute services are unfilled on a permanent basis and the IHCA said hospitals are paying multiples of the official salaries for temporary and agency consultants.

The IHCA is calling on the Minister for Health and the HSE to publish details on the number of consultant posts filled by doctors who are not on the specialist register for the speciality in which they are practising.

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