Hospitals at risk of further industrial action over two-tier pay for consultants

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Hospitals at risk of further industrial action over two-tier pay for consultants


Health Minister Simon Harris (Michelle Devane/PA)
Health Minister Simon Harris (Michelle Devane/PA)

Hospitals are at risk of further industrial relations strife if a workable formula cannot be agreed to resolve the two tier pay gap for consultants.

The threat of a possible ballot by consultants and junior doctors was made at the annual meeting of the Irish Medical Organisation this morning.

The doctors are angry that consultants employed since 2012 are paid 30pc less than long serving colleagues.

Health Minister Simon Harris who addressed the conference in Killarney this afternoon promised he would establish a process to look at the issue.

“We clearly need a process. We need to engage. That is how you resolve dispute. I am committing to work with the IMO to identify a mechanism for that engagement.”

He asked the IMO to “get into a room” with health officials to come up with a mechanism to examine the issue.

His statement drew applause from the doctors but it remains unclear what the process will entail and how agreeable it will be to the medics.

The doctors have not revealed what type of industrial action they will take but it is likely to be first directed at administration rather than patient care.

Mr Harris said any action would only worsen waiting lists for patients.

Responding to the minister IMO President Dr Padraig McGarry and consultants’ leader Dr Clive Kilgallen said they welcomed the statement but they stressed any process has to be speedy and not talks about talks.

In his address to the conference Harris said that earlier this week, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform stated that outstanding matters will be given full consideration either by any pay review mechanism agreed by the relevant parties or in the context of the next round of pay talks.

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“Clearly, the pay gap between serving and new entrant consultants will have to be at the centre of the envisaged engagement.”

He acknowledged there are significant recruitment and retention challenges for hospital consultants and the Public Pay Commission recognised that the pay gap between serving and new entrant consultants is a key factor.

There are around 500 vacancies for full time consultants in hospitals which are unfilled, leaving locums and temporary doctors to maintain a service.

Mr Harris said that last year he pledged to work with the IMO to deliver investment in general practice and agreement has now been reached on a new deal.

“For the first time there is specific funding to recognise the very significant challenge faced by patients and GPs in areas of high deprivation.

“The agreement demonstrates awareness of the need for more family friendly policies, which many GPs have highlighted to me as an issue.”

He said that for the first time GPs will deliver structured care on a large scale to patients with chronic conditions in primary care.

Over 400,000 patients with chronic illness, such as diabetes, asthma, COPD and heart disease will benefit from new and improved chronic disease management.

The programme will start in 2020 and will be rolled out to adult patients over a 4 year period, starting with those aged over 75.

GPs will also be paid to provide venesection for patients with haemochromatosis, which will mean some 8,000 GMS patients with this condition will no longer have to attend hospitals for therapeutic phlebotomy, but can be managed locally by their GP;

It has also been agreed to pay GPs a fee for participation in weekly virtual consultations with Consultant Cardiologists to discuss patients with heart failure and their care plans.

Online Editors


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