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New salary scale for consultants is ‘failing already’

30 Jul 2015

The fact that advertised consultant posts were attracting “no applicants or very few applicants” had undermined the likelihood the new salary scale would be effective, consultants have warned.

A “sizeable percentage” of advertised consultant posts have attracted no applicants — at hospitals where the IHCA has good information. Some of these posts have been advertised twice or three times. At Galway, for example, in the Saolta group, three surgical posts had one applicant per post.

“In effect that means there is no competition for the posts,” said IHCA Secretary General Martin Varley. A number of Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and anaesthetist consultant posts attracted no applicants, while a joint gynaecological post between Galway and Portiuncula also attracted no applicants.

On December 18 last, there were 286 temporary consultant posts, excluding the specialty of psychiatry. The cost of bringing in temporary consultants has been put at twice the salary cost of longer-serving consultants and three times the salary paid to new entrants, the IHCA said. About half of these posts have been filled on a temporary contract basis.

There had been no applications for a number of other consultant posts advertised since January, added Varley, including in such specialties as intensive care and anaesthesia, and a “very limited number of applicants” for a significant number of other posts.

What was on offer for new entrant consultants would still leave them with a continuing shortfall, compared with colleagues appointed before 2011, according to IHCA calculations. In year four, the new entrants would be 20 per cent below what established colleagues earn. Even by year nine, there would be a significant shortfall. “Under the new pay scale, they will never get parity. That still has an adverse impact on Ireland’s ability to retain and attract back consultants,” the IHCA said.

Saolta has offered a one-year temporary locum general surgeon contract to a surgeon until April 2016. This surgeon has accepted the post. Saolta said it would be working with the Consultant Applications Advisory Committee and the National Recruitment Service to appoint a permanent surgeon.

A consultant paediatric urologist between Temple Street and Crumlin Hospitals, meanwhile, was advertised on two occasions “without any suitable applicants”. A third recruitment process was undertaken and it was hoped that changes to the terms and conditions of the contract would result in a competitive applications process, the Children’s Hospitals Group said.

Gary Culliton

Click here to view the full article which appeared in Irish Medical Times