Irish Medical Organisation

PRE-BUDGET SUBMISSION – Budget Must Address Doctor Recruitment and Retention Crisis

Budget Must Address Doctor Recruitment and Retention Crisis


  • Ireland has lowest number of per capita medical specialists in the EU


  • Consultant shortfall of up to 72% in Key Specialties


  • 520 Consultant posts are unfilled or on temporary basis, while 133 Consultant posts are filled by doctors not on specialist register


  • 50% of public health specialists due to retire in next five years


  • One quarter of GPs due to retire in next five years


  • Unprecedented levels of emigration among Irish doctors, while almost half of HSE posts advertised receive fewer than two applicants  



Sunday, 25th August, 2019.  The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has called for urgent Government action in Budget 2020 to address the ongoing crisis in doctor recruitment and retention. The organisation is publishing its pre-Budget submission tomorrow (Monday).


Speaking today,Dr. Padraig McGarry, President of the IMO, said that the Government could no longer afford to delay its response to a crisis in doctor recruitment, as it has now become the key factor in long waiting lists and our inability to provide timely care to patients. 


“The Government has utterly failed in its duty to provide the people of Ireland with a properly resourced health system and needs to act urgently before further damage is done. Sub-standard working conditions in understaffed hospitals are having a terrible impact on patient care and unconscionable pay inequality means doctors are emigrating in their thousands to countries that actually value the skills they provide. The lack of respect and culture of neglect fostered by the Government does the patients and doctors of this country a huge disservice, and as a result Ireland now has the lowest number of medical specialists in the EU. That is completely unacceptable.”


There are currently 520 Consultant posts in Ireland that are either empty or staffed on a temporary basis, while 133 Consultant posts are filled by doctors who are not on the specialist register. Certain specialties are currently experiencing Consultant shortfalls of up to 72%. Added to that, half of the country’s 92 public health doctors are due to retire in the next five years and we have posts advertised that attract few or no applications. 


A recent survey carried out by the IMO showed that 83% of non-consultant hospital doctors (NCHDs) said pay disparity at Consultant level will impact on their decision on whether to apply for Consultant posts in Ireland.


Dr. McGarry said: “The situation as it currently stands is lamentable and will steadily get worse if this Government does not deal with the problem and make our health services somewhere that doctors want to practice medicine. Consultants now face pay inequality of up to €50,000 per annum based purely on when they were appointed, so it is no wonder they are leaving the country for health systems around the world that respect their skills and do not have a pay discrimination policy. Time and again, we have heard empty promises from a Government that cannot grasp the scale of the emergency we are facing – this needs to change.”


In the pre-Budget submission, the IMO calls for:

  • An immediate end to the pay inequalities faced by Consultants;
  • An immediate increase in the number of Consultants employed in our health system in line with recommended ratios;
  • The full and immediate implementation of the recommendations of the Crowe Horwath Report on the role, training and career structures of public health physicians;
  • An increase in community medical staffing levels to maintain quality and safety of vaccination programmes; and
  • Build on the recently IMO-negotiated agreement with GPswith the allocation of funding for a comprehensive women’s health programme, and appropriate GP services for elderly nursing home patients.
  • Tax relief on loan repayments for medical graduates


Dr. McGarry said: “There is not one area of the health service that has not been affected by the doctor recruitment and retention crisis. The Government needs to wake up to the fact that nothing is more important than the lives of our citizens. Irish people deserve a health system of which they can be proud, and without immediate investment, it will remain one of which we are all ashamed.”

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