Within its medical workforce planning remit, NDTP predicts and proposes on an annual basis the number of interns and medical trainees required for each specialty, as well as projecting the future medical workforce requirements for each speciality. This information then feeds into the medical education and training aspect of NDTP via the commissioning and funding of medical training required to meet workforce needs, ensuring that the training content and delivery is responsive to the changing needs of the Irish healthcare system, and supporting the retention of doctors upon completion of their training.
The main objective of NDTP is to ensure that, at all times, the Irish health service is provided with the appropriate number of specialists, who possess the required skills and competencies to deliver high quality and safe care, and whose training is matched to the model of healthcare delivery in Ireland, regardless of location.
Background to Specialty-Specific Reviews
In 2014, NDTP published “Population Based Ratios of Specialists in Ireland and Internationally: An Information Source to Support Medical Workforce Planning”, which was a benchmarking exercise conducted across all medical specialties, comparing specialist numbers against international examples. Included in this benchmarking exercise were the projected numbers of specialists required per specialty in ten years’ time (2024). Data and contextual information were requested from individual postgraduate medical training bodies and associated national clinical programmes, which were considered in the development of each specialty-specific chapter.
As a follow-up to this exercise, it is timely to provide a review of each medical specialty based on current available data and input again from the postgraduate training bodies and clinical programmes. These reviews are high-level and are a companion to the more in-depth specialty-specific reports which are published by NDTP (i.e. “Future Demand for General Practitioners 2015-2025”, published in 2015, with equivalent reports in Paediatrics and Emergency Medicine in development). These reviews will be a useful reference for those with an interest in data on the medical workforce and medical workforce planning, comprising a live repository that will be continuously updated as each review is completed. Where a review has yet to be completed, the chapter from the benchmarking exercise in 2014 will be available for reference.
Data Used and Limitations
The data utilised in the analysis of the medical workforce in each speciality for these reviews are drawn from multiple sources:
- HSE Doctors Integrated Management E-System (DIME), which receives data from the postgraduate medical training bodies, the Medical Council of Ireland and each clinical site that employs doctors in the public health system in Ireland;
- HSE Workforce Planning, Analysis and Informatics Unit (WPAI);
- HSE Consultants Appointments Division;
- The Postgraduate Medical Training Bodies;
- The Medical Council of Ireland – Medical Council Workforce Intelligence Report;
- The National Clinical Programme linked to each specialty;
- International medical training bodies (UK and Australia);
- International medical workforce datasets (i.e. National Health Workforce Dataset in Australia); and,
- International health research groups (i.e. Health Workforce Australia).
Variations between datasets are not unexpected and therefore the results from the different sources in the reviews are not identical. These limitations of the datasets are due to variations in the time point of data collection, differences in the variables collected (i.e. whole-time equivalents (WTE) versus headcounts (HC)), differences in the definitions of some variables (e.g. less than full-time versus part-time), absence of variable values in datasets (i.e. missing data), and varying quality of data between sources.
The weaknesses of benchmarking domestic data against international data are known and include:
(i) a lack of contextual consideration;
(ii) assumptions that the international standard is best practice; and,
(iii) potential complacency should the domestic value equal that of the international value.
However, there is merit in this kind of comparison as these ratios are interesting in terms of contextualising the demand for consultants across international healthcare systems with similar training and healthcare delivery infrastructures to those in Ireland. Further, it provides an international baseline for comparison and can help identify areas for improvement. Irish doctors traditionally migrate to countries like the UK and Australia and so benchmarking against these countries is a useful exercise.
Should you require any further information on the reviews, please contact NDTP at firstname.lastname@example.org
Updated Medical Workforce Reviews (2017)
Paediatrics and Neonatology
General Practice Medical Workforce Planning (2015)
Specialty Workforce Reviews (2014)
Obstetrics and Gynaecology
Public Health Medicine