Medical Council News


Medical Council Publishes Medical Workforce Intelligence Report

Safe, high quality medical practice requires a continued focus on workforce planning

The Medical Council today (28th August 2014) published its second annual Medical Workforce Intelligence Report. The report provides a detailed description of doctors’ practice in Ireland.

President of the Medical Council, Professor Freddie Wood said: “The public’s experience of the patient-doctor relationship is shaped by the healthcare team, the settings where doctors learn and practise, and the wider framework of legislation and strategic policies which set direction for the health system. The detailed understanding of the evolving medical workforce provided by this report supports our work in education and training, registration and oversight of continuing practice, while also better informing the individuals and organisations with whom we work across the wider health system.”

The report shows that Ireland has a relatively young medical workforce, with just 1-in-5 (21.4%) doctors aged 55 or older, compared to an OECD[1] average of 1-in-3 (32%) doctors aged 55 or older. However, specialty-specific detail points to a need to prepare now for future challenges as a number of specialties have a significantly higher proportion of older doctors, such as Occupational Medicine (48.6%), Public Health Medicine (41.7%), Psychiatry (35.2%), General Surgery (34.9%), and General Practice (33.3%).

Almost half (46.3%) of doctors are registered as specialists, with a slightly lower proportion (41.8%) registered as generalists. This mix of skills contrasts with trends across the OECD, where on average, there are more than two specialists for every generalist. Again, specialty-specific detail in the report highlights variation in the skill-mix across different areas of practice, with some areas being more specialist-led than others: for example while two-in-three doctors (64.1%) working in Ophthalmology are specialists, less than one-in-five (17.2%) doctors working in Emergency Medicine are specialists.

Continuing the trend identified in the previous report, almost 1-in-10 (9.7%) doctors aged 25-29 years exited the practice of medicine in Ireland and there was an annual relative increase of 23% in the exit rate among graduates of Irish medical schools aged 25-29 (6.4% in 2012 to 7.9% in 2013). Meanwhile, 5% of 25-29 year old doctors on the medical register were practising outside of Ireland.

Speaking today, Ms Caroline Spillane, CEO of the Medical Council said: “At a time of health system reform, it’s essential that we continue to focus on developing and retaining doctors with the right mix of skills to meet the changing needs of patients and the health service. This report has been developed not only to support our own work but also to inform wider health system planning and reform.”

The report also finds that:

  • One in three doctors (34.3%) practising in Ireland qualified elsewhere, and this reliance on international medical graduates is among the highest in the OECD. The roles undertaken by doctors who qualified outside of Ireland are different to those of Irish graduates. Three quarters (74.1%) of doctors working in non-consultant doctor posts who are not in training graduated outside of Ireland. 
  • There has been a 12% relative increase in the number of women on the medical register since 2008, and now four in ten (41.3%) doctors on the register are women. This is in line with the 44% average across OECD countries. There is definite gender patterning in the roles of female doctors, as there are significantly higher than average proportions of women practising in areas such as public health medicine, paediatrics and obstetrics & gynaecology. The scope for flexible or part-time working arrangements may be a driver in career choices, as women are twice as likely as men (20.5% vs 9.9%) to work part time.

Ms Spillane continued: “The findings have important implications for how we approach our own work in overseeing doctors’ education, training and practice. The report will also inform wider efforts across the health system to plan and develop a sustainable medical workforce in Ireland. Without an informed approach to medical workforce planning, we cannot build a strong health system in Ireland and continue to meet our commitment to fairer recruitment of internationally-qualified doctors in line with WHO best practice.”


View the Medical Workforce Intelligence Report

View the latest OECD “Health at a Glance” report

For further information:

Lorna Farren

Medical Council Communications Manager

01 498 3173/ 087 913 0288