Figures recently obtained by Fianna Fáil reveal that of 3,155 approved consultant positions across Ireland; some 349 are vacant or ‘unmatched’.

The party’s Spokesperson on Mental Health, James Browne TD, says that the figures are stark evidence of the strain the health services are under both in terms of recruitment and retention.

He commented, “The fact that one in nine positions are vacant can only be having a detrimental impact on the provision of health care.

“It is crucial that the Government address the matter.

“Some specialities are worse affected by vacancies than others, however, the HSE was unable to provide up to date figures for vacancies amongst other medical staff posts. Of particular concern to me as Fianna Fáil’s Mental Health Spokesperson is the number of unfilled psychiatrist posts around the country – of the 478 approved positions 65 are currently unfilled.

“These positions are not just vacant in acute hospitals but also in the community. In counties such as Cork and Kerry close to one in five community psychiatric positions are not filled.

“It’s not surprising then that the hospital groups that suffer the worst overcrowding also record the highest proportion of vacancies. Further clear evidence that this is having an adverse impact of the provision of health services.

“For example, the South/South West Group has 67 (of 489) posts unfilled and in the Limerick group 25 of 155 positions are vacant.

He concluded, “Any deficiency in capacity means a deficient health service. Budget 2019 must invest in supporting more qualified and specialist staff to provide the health service that people deserve.”