In a landmark move, the Government has today approved a proposal from Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly TD for a new public-only hospital consultant contract.
It follows the conclusion of negotiations on the new contract following extensive talks between the Department of Health (DoH), the Health Service Executive (HSE), the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) and the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA).
Chair of the Process, Mr Tom Mallon, JC informed the Minister earlier this week that a second round of negotiations, which began last August, had come to a conclusion.
The Government today approved the new contract, while the representative bodies will consider the proposals through their respective processes.
Minister Stephen Donnelly said: “The introduction of this new contract will be a landmark in delivering Universal Healthcare. I was pleased to be able to inform my government colleagues that the negotiations between my Department, the HSE, the IMO and the IHCA had come to a conclusion.
“I want to put on record my thanks to our Chair, Tom Mallon, for his dedication throughout this process. I also want to thank officials in my own Department and the HSE who have worked tirelessly on these issues for more than a year.
“I also want to place on record my thanks to the IMO and the IHCA for their commitment to this process and they are due huge credit for their contribution to arriving at a fair, progressive contract that puts the interests of patients to the fore. I believe that we delivered such a contract through the process that has just concluded.
“The implementation of this new contract will maintain the momentum of reform and improvement in our health services.
“This Government has invested more in our health services than any of its predecessors. The health budget is now at a historic high of over €23 billion. Over 900 additional acute beds have been delivered since 1 January 2020, while we have increased our number of critical care beds by 26%.
“We have recruited more than 16,200 staff over the last two years; 4,600 nurses and midwives, 2,650 health and social care professionals, and over 1,750 doctors and dentists. This is the highest level of recruitment in the history of our health service, and we intend to keep recruiting as fast as we can.
“Despite this, our ratio of consultants to population in Ireland has historically been far too low. We now employ 3,800 consultants in the public system, an increase of 1,300 over the last 10 years. We want to continue to build our consultant numbers to provide a better-quality service for patients, and to improve the work life balance of consultants.
“This new contract will ensure that care will be provided when patients need it most. Consultant decision-making on-site results in reduced emergency admissions, shorter lengths of stay and more complete care plans for discharge. This new contract will not result in an increase in working hours for consultants but instead will focus on ensuring that these senior decision makers are present and delivering patient care when demand is highest. This will enable the health service to maintain efficient and timely patient flow out-of-hours and at weekends, enhance senior decision-maker presence on-site and reduce waiting times by maximising capacity in our hospitals. This new contract will allow a transition away from the provision of private care in public hospitals and ensure state resources are provided in accordance with need rather than ability to pay.”
The Government has also approved the recruitment of an additional 1,000 consultants following the introduction of the Sláintecare Contract.
The new Sláintecare contract will include:
- Basic pay of €209,915 - €252,150 on a six-point scale.
- A 37-hour week with an 8.00am to 10.00pm Monday to Friday and 8.00am to 6.00pm Saturday.
- Consultants will continue to receive additional remuneration for on-call duties and overtime as applicable.
- A highly flexible contract that enables consultants opt for a variety of different work patterns including less than whole time; work sharing; compressed hours; flexible start and finish times will be available to the greatest extent possible.
- Supporting consultants to participate in medical education training and research and enabling a greater focus on research and education in line with other jurisdictions.
- Consultants will be free, having met their commitment to their public contract, to engage in off-site private practice, in the same way as allowed in the NHS.
A priority for Government is to provide more consultant delivered public health care. The focus of this contract on public work in public hospitals is crucial in helping us move to a system where all patients of public hospitals are treated in accordance with their need.
Minister Donnelly continued: “I recognised the need to make consultant posts attractive to fill as many as possible on a permanent basis. The introduction of this new consultant contract will be a significant step forward, I believe, in supporting the delivery of consultant care and thereby improving patient care.
“The contract compares very favourably with other health services around the world and I’m sure it will prove attractive to potential candidates, while enabling public health services to deliver care when patients’ health needs arise.
“I want to once again acknowledge the commitment shown by my Department, the HSE, the IMO, the IHCA and the Independent Chair of the process, Tom Mallon, to this critical public health reform which has enabled us to bring this process to a conclusion. I look forward to the consultant bodies endorsing these proposals in due course."