Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Public Expenditure and Reform, Barry Cowen has responded to the latest report published by the Public Pay Commission on recruitment and retention issues within the health service.

Commenting on the report, Deputy Cowen has said that, “I welcome the publication of the report and I commend the Commission on producing a very detailed analysis of recruitment and retention issues in the health service. It will obviously take time to fully analyse the report in its entirety but it is clear that there are some serious issues that the Government must tackle.

“The Commission specifically states that a resolution to the pay equalisation issue for new recruits will be a vital measure in improving recruitment and retention issues for Nurses and Midwives, particularly those who are embarking on or are in the early stages of their career in the public health service. What we clearly need from Government on this issue is recognition of its importance and pathway to addressing it. Ignoring the issue is no longer acceptable or justified.

“It is very disturbing to learn of the significant data gaps within the health service that restricted the Commission in fulfilling its task. The Commission cites that there are serious data gaps on vacancy rates, recruitment competitions, applications, interviews and appointments. The Commission goes onto say that it was constrained in its capacity to make definitive conclusions in respect of the retention of consultants due to an absence of detailed, consistent and reliable retention data, particularly by speciality and locations. This seems to be a very serious charge given the Commission was tasked with analysing recruitment and retention issues.

“The Commission also commented on the lack of any substantial medium or long term workforce plans based on the need for services into the future. It is critical that this is addressed particularly if Sláintecare is to stand any chance of being implemented. We need to know how many doctors, nurses and consultants we will need in specific areas in the years to come. It is astonishing that such a mechanism is not in place at the present time.

“For nurses and midwives the Commission recommended that certain allowances, like the Location Allowance and the Specialist Qualification Allowance, be increased by 20% and extended to maternity services. It also recommends that Nurses and Midwives should be eligible for senior staff roles after 17 years rather than the current 20 years in order to retain experienced staff.

“The Government needs to take these recommendations on board and set out precisely how it will address them. The Commission was tasked with providing a platform for further engagement on the serious staffing issues within the health service. With the publication of this report the issues facing nurses, doctors and consultants will not evaporate. The Government needs to set out now how it will engage with unions to arrive at a solution that is fair and just for the workers in the health service,” concluded Cowen.