Press Release

Minister Cowen announces major initiative on medical manpower

The Minister for Health and Children today, 7th May 1998, announced the establishment of a Forum on Medical Manpower to develop a programme of action to deliver changes necessary in this area.

The Minister said that his priority is to develop a comprehensive policy on medical manpower designed to address the problems which have been identified. Minister Cowen said “New initiatives are required relating to training, career structure and service delivery. I want the Forum to consider particularly ways to create better careers for young doctors, to reduce the need for so many of our doctors to emigrate after qualification, to improve post graduate medical training and to effect improvements in the delivery of medical care to patients.”

In recent years a number of studies have been undertaken examining the issues in relation to medical manpower in general hospitals. Two key earlier milestones were the publication of Medical Manpower in Acute Hospitals, published in June 1993 which has become known as the Tierney Report and the Consultative Conference held in Limerick in 1996 which was themed Towards a Patient-Centred Service. Analysis of medical manpower has identified the specific problems to be:

  • 1,200 consultants and 2,700 non-consultant hospital doctors (NCHDs) are employed in the public health service, this imbalance leads to many newly qualified doctors emigrating at an early stage in their careers (there is a perceived lack of good career prospects for young doctors). The emigration of young doctors results in a significant manpower gap.
  • Many NCHD posts are also unattractive due to the proliferation of six month contracts.
  • Lack of centralised responsibility for medical manpower.
  • Possible need for new career grade for doctors with responsibility for quality hospital service.
  • Lack of formal recognition of time spent in NCHD posts for formal training purposes.
  • Need for revised arrangements for higher and specialist medical training which could offer greater certainty in career planning.
  • Lack of a system of structured rotations between teaching hospitals and other general hospitals.

The Minister has asked the Forum to convene as soon as possible to make recommendations on these key issues.

Membership of the Forum will be:

  • Secretary-General, Department of Health and Children (Chairperson)
  • Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health and Children
  • President, Royal College of Physicians of Ireland
  • President, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
  • Chairperson, Comhairle na nOpsideal
  • Chairperson, the Postgraduate Medical and Dental Board
  • President, The Medical Council
  • President, Irish College of General Practitioners
  • President, Irish Medical Organisation
  • President, Irish Hospital Consultants Association
  • two nominees of the Chief Executive Officers of the Health Boards, and
  • two representatives of the Voluntary Hospitals