The Minister for Health has announced a change in policy designed to open up a consultant/specialist pathway to non-EU doctors currently working in the health service.

Up to now, EU or EEA citizens were given preferential access to postgraduate training places.

However, Stephen Donnelly has said that this policy will be brought to an end, to make it easier for non-EU citizens to progress their careers in Ireland.

"We've many talented and committed non-EU doctors contributing hugely to our health service and they must be given opportunities to progress their careers in medicine, surgery and general practice," Mr Donnelly said on Twitter.

In March, the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland (RCPI) said it believed "that equity of access to postgraduate education for all doctors is a fundamental principle, and would welcome fairer allocation of places on training schemes".

In April, more than 40 consultants and medical professors from Dublin's Beaumont Hospital wrote to the minister urging "the Government, the HSE and training bodies to find the innovation and flexibility" to enable non-EU doctors to "progress their (medical) careers" in Ireland.

In November 2020, changes were announced to the Medical Practitioners Act 2007, to remove some barriers faced by no-EEA doctors in applying to national training programmes, however obstacles including the prioritisation of EU doctors for specialist training remained in place.

In a statement, the Minister for Health said the change to this policy would apply to the July 2022 postgraduate intake recruitment process that will take place this autumn.

It is understood that the decision was based on a review of the policy undertaken by the Department of Health.

The minister now intends to amend the policy to include all Stamp 4 Visa holders, which is reckonable as residence when applying for citizenship by naturalisation.

Following this, specialist training places will be allocated in the first instance to candidates who, at the time of application, are citizens of Ireland or nationals of another Member State of the European Union, Stamp 4 Visa Holders and UK nationals.