Tackling The Acute Shortage Of Non-Consultant Hospital Docotors (NCHDs)

Author:Ms Rebecca Ryan
Profession:Matheson Ormsby Prentice

There has been a reported shortage of Non-Consultant Hospital Doctors (NCHDs) in Irish Hospitals. These non-training positions are perceived to be unattractive to young graduates, who typically seek to further their training and become specialists. In May the HSE engaged in a recruitment drive in India and Pakistan to address the shortage. Reportedly two hundred and seventy doctors were offered positions as NCHDs, but it became clear that the existing registration procedures were inadequate to speedily register and deploy the new recruits. The registration procedure set out under the Medical Practitioners Act 2007 required non-EU doctors to complete a pre-registration exam prior to taking up a doctor's post. As debated in the Dáil on 7 July this exam reportedly deterred many prospective applicants as it had a high failure rate and was perceived as being more appropriate for recent college graduates than for experienced doctors. Strict visa requirements also made it difficult for doctors to travel to Ireland to complete the exam. Political pressure forced the Minister for Health to amend the legislation so that the newly recruited doctors could begin work quickly.

The Medical Practitioners Amendment Act 2011

The Medical Practitioners Amendment Act 2011 (the "2011 Act") came into effect in July. It introduced a new division to the Medical Practitioners Register, namely the Supervised Division. The new division facilitates the registration of non-EU doctors, without diminishing stringent patient safety regulations. Under the 2011 Act, registration applications are only accepted from doctors who have been offered an identifiable post which has been certified by the HSE as a publicly funded post. CEOs of public hospitals must submit a detailed declaration confirming that the doctor will satisfy the legislative requirements by setting out the nature of the post, the doctor's duties and also the supervisory arrangements. The application process involves two stages. Stage 1 verifies the applicant's education and qualifications and confirms that he or she is not subject to disciplinary proceedings in another jurisdiction (which is consistent with the standard Medical Council registration procedure and is vital to ensure patient safety). Stage 2 represents a significant change to the pre-registration exam. The new exam is designed to ensure that the applicant is competent to take up the particular post. Therefore, it is tailored to be speciality...

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