The HSE will end up with more NCHDs in certain specialties than the number of existing vacancies after it allocates trainee doctors currently being recruited from India and Pakistan, Irish Medical Times exclusively reports.
Correspondence seen by IMT reveals that this is as a result of a deliberate plan taken at corporate level and with backing from senior management.
“As part of the allocation of Indian/Pakistani doctors from the centralised recruitment process, an additional number of doctors are being allocated to certain specialties in excess of current vacancies,” states the letter dated July 8.
According to the correspondence, the corporate motivation is to reduce overtime pay or eliminate agency cover, enhance compliance with the European Working Time Directive (EWTD) and improve the quality of services and working lives of doctors.
Some of the country’s largest rural and regional hospitals are set to spend up to 10 times more than the 2005 figure on agency workers to fill staff gaps this year. Despite HSE plans to reduce spending on agency workers, costs continued to rise steadily in the first three months of 2011.
As of July 4, HSE-centralised NCHD recruitment had received 1,791 applications over five rounds from February 28 to June 30, with NCHD vacancies at July 11, the date of the changeover, at 150.
The plan to hire an excess amount of NCHDs has been agreed by the National Directors with the Regional Directors of Operations (RDOs), IMT understands. Whole Time Equivalent (WTE) ceilings will not be an issue in circumstances where there is evidence that significant savings in agency/overtime can be achieved.
In line with the correspondence, sent to some local managers and clinical directors and copied to RDOs, the amount of doctors allocated would be determined by the numbers of new employees arriving from India and Pakistan. At the end of May, the Executive said more than 240 doctors from India and Pakistan had applied for visas and legislation to introduce a new classification of NCHDs has now been passed.
Local hospital management were requested, in the correspondence, to review their overtime/agency expenditure and EWTD compliance by specialty and to advise by last Friday (July 15) if this allocation could be utilised to reduce or eliminate overtime and agency costs or to enhance EWTD compliance.
The HSE expressed appreciation that this additional allocation could potentially involve changes to rosters or changes in cross-specialty cover, which in turn could generate negotiation with staff representatives.