Health service heavily reliant on foreign doctors

Many Irish-trained graduates emigrating
  • Deborah Condon

Around 700 new doctors graduate from Ireland's six medical schools every year, however the Irish health service is heavily reliant on foreign-trained doctors, according to a new report.

The report from the RCSI (Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland) Health Workforce Research Group states that Ireland's increasing need for doctors is mainly being met by employing those who have been trained in other countries.

It points out that the percentage of Irish doctors on the Medical Council register continues to fall. Of all the new doctors who joined the Medical Council register in 2015, two-thirds were graduates from outside of Ireland.

The highest number of foreign-trained doctors come from Africa (28%), followed by Pakistan (20%).

The report highlights a high rate of emigration among graduates of Irish medical schools, who are attracted by better working conditions, training and career opportunities in other English speaking countries.

"We need high level recognition of the scale of the problem and we need radical responses. Currently, Irish hospitals are employing increasing numbers of foreign-trained doctors into posts that don't provide these doctors with an adequate level of supervised training. This is not good for patients, or for these doctors' careers," commented Prof Ruairi Brugha of the RCSI.

He said that the high turnover of doctors here shows that international recruitment ‘is not an effective strategy'.

"Many of those recruited are leaving Ireland for the same reasons that Irish doctors leave, a process we describe as brain gain, followed by brain waste, ending with brain drain.

"This involves firstly a brain gain through the recruitment of non-EU trained foreign doctors. Then brain waste through slow or stagnant career progression for these individuals leading to deskilling, and finally brain drain through the onward migration of these doctors, mainly to other wealthy countries," Prof Brugha explained.

The report calls for effective retention measures, such as better working conditions (shorter and more flexible working hours), better terms and conditions (such as equitable salary levels for new consultants), better training, and clearer career paths.

The report, Brain Drain to Brain Gain: Ireland's Two-Way Flow of Doctors, can be viewed here


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