* To ask the Minister for Health his views that hospital consultant salary levels are out of line with our European neighbours; and his plans to reform this area of expenditure in view of the reform remit of his Department.
* To ask the Minister for Health if, in the context of the State’s financial position and also the remuneration rates in other European states, there are plans to renegotiate the contracts of hospital consultants which would generate savings to the Exchequer but also permit the recruitment of additional consultants and thereby reducing patient waiting times.
– Seán Kyne
The Programme for Government, recognising that consultants remuneration rates are relatively high, provides for a reduction. However, my immediate priority is to achieve more effective implementation of the existing contract and to reform how services are delivered to patients. I am satisfied that considerable efficiencies can be achieved under the terms of the 2008 contract and the Public Service Agreement 2010-2014, if consultants embrace this reform agenda. I believe that the efficiencies, productivity increases and reform, if achieved, will be worth more to the health system than simply reducing the pay of consultants and the Government has endorsed this approach.
Consultations with the consultant representative bodies under the Public Service Agreement framework commenced on 16th May. Management submitted detailed proposals to the representative bodies on 17th May for consideration. A meeting between the parties took place on 17th July and a further meeting is scheduled for 24th July. I have previously stated that this process needs to be focussed on the achievement of worthwhile and measurable change and must also be concluded within a reasonable period, in line with the provisions of the Public Service Agreement.
There has been a significant increase in consultant numbers over the past 10 years. However, given the State’s financial position, the health sector is subject to overall Government policy on recruitment and must make an appropriate contribution to the commitment to reduce public service numbers. Health employment numbers must be reduced to approximately 102,000 by the end of this year. Any further consultant appointments made must be within this policy context.