A surgical registrar at the Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise has said that the introduction of a recognised training pathway for doctors from outside the EU and EEA to train as consultants may result in more doctors staying in the health service.

Up to now EU or EEA citizens were given preferential access to specialist training places but Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said that this policy will now be brought to an end.

The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO), which campaigned on the issue of training pathways for international doctors, gave the policy change announcement "a guarded welcome".

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Dr Naveed Abbas, who is chair of the IMO's NCHD International Doctors Group, said that the decision will allow doctors from outside the EU to apply for a training post on equivalent terms to doctors from within the EU.

However, he said that to access the consultant scheme they must first work in the system for five years without any training oversight.

He said barriers also remain for non-EU doctors to fully quality as a consultant.

Dr Abbas said that like many other junior doctors, he came to Ireland from Pakistan ten yeas ago following a recruitment drive to attract international doctors.

He said many doctors came but there was not "a fully-thought through plan to access training".

He said that more needs to change to discourage people from leaving Ireland and to successfully fill the hundreds of vacant consultant posts.

Dr Abbas said that a pandemic bonus would be "a nice gesture" to many hospital workers, but he said that additional annual leave, while merited, would be harder to avail of.