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The freeze takes place 'with immediate effect'. EAMONN FARRELL/PHOTOCALL IRELAND The
recruitment freeze

HSE extends recruitment freeze to include agency staff and junior doctors

The changes announced in the memo take place ‘with immediate effect’.

LAST UPDATE | 13 Oct 2023

THE HSE HAS extended its current recruitment freeze to include agency staff and junior doctors, formally known as non-consultant hospital doctors.

This follows the introduction of a recruitment freeze on managerial and administrative posts by the HSE last week.

In a memo sent to staff by the HSE’s CEO Bernard Gloster, and viewed by The Journal, it was outlined that the “current recruitment pause” has today been extended “beyond clerical administrative and management grades”.

This recruitment freeze will now include home help, non-consultant hospital doctors (NCHD), general support, and agency staffing above current levels.

However, some roles are not subject to the recruitment freeze, including approved consultant and GP training posts, nursing and midwifery, dentists and orthodontists for public service schools and emergency services, health and social care professionals and within the National Ambulance Service.

It was noted in the memo that “there will be no further growth of the workforce in 2024”, other than an estimated 2,000 posts for which there are “pre-existing commitments”.

The memo also stated that around 7,000 previously approved posts which cannot be funded will be “removed from the profile and if considered in the future will have to be new approved developments”.

The changes announced in the memo take place “with immediate effect”.

The Irish Medical Organisation said it is “shocked and appalled at HSE plans to implement a recruitment freeze among a wide range of healthcare staff”.

Dr Rachel McNamara, chair of the IMO NCHD Committee, said the “recruitment freeze flies in the face of safe staffing levels”.

“It will add to the chaos in a system which already does not have enough doctors to deliver safe patient care, where many teams across the country are not fully staffed and where NCHDs are still working illegal and unsafe hours,” she added.

The president of the IMO, Dr John Cannon, remarked that “the system requires more, not fewer doctors, just to meet service demand”.

The IMO said it is seeking urgent engagement with HSE and will consider what actions need to be taken by NCHDs to ensure safe working hours and staffing levels.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation has stated that although nurses and midwives are exempt from the freeze, an embargo on recruitment among healthcare workers will have a direct impact on their ability to deliver safe care.

“While the decision by the HSE to impose a recruitment freeze will not impact the much-needed recruitment of additional nurses and midwives, it will add to the pressure that our members who are working in overcrowded and understaffed wards are already facing,” INMO General Secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said. 

“We are about to head into a winter of many unknowns but one thing we do know is that the same old problems associated with chronic overcrowding will only be exacerbated by a lack of clinical staff on our wards,” Ní Sheaghdha said. 

She added: “INMO members in hospitals across the country report to us on a daily basis how impossible it is to provide the safe care that their patients need and deserve.

“Not having a full complement of healthcare staff will only exacerbate that.”

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin’s health spokesperson David Cullinane said the move “will be a disaster for health services and will impact directly on patient care”.

Speaking to RTÉ’s News at One, Cullinane said “we have known for some time that junior doctors work far too many hours”.

“The government consistently has been in breach of the European directive working time act in relation to junior doctors, and we know we need an additional 800 junior doctors to deal with that, and then we have a recruitment freeze.”

Cullinane also pointed to what he described as a “dramatic underfunding” of the health services which he said will have “catastrophic consequences for patient safety and patient care”.

“The head of the HSE has told me that the health service is not properly funded, and that this will have dire consequences, so I have to do my job and hold this government to account,” said Cullinane.

He added that there is no indication as to how long the recruitment freeze will be in place for.

Labour health spokesman Duncan Smith described the freeze as “outrageous”.

“News of the recruitment freeze will be a huge blow to all who work in the HSE.

“This latest measure will have a massive long term impact on Ireland’s capacity to deliver care today and into the future.”

With reporting by Hayley Halpin and Press Association

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