Overtime payments to mental health nurses rose by 1,000%

The Acute Mental Health Unit at Cork University Hospital

Auditors raised issues with the processing of overtime payments to mental health nurses in Kilkenny and the cost of an agency consultant for services in Cork.

Overtime payments for nurses in mental health services in Kilkenny increased more than 1,000% between 2013 and 2015, auditors found. 

Management blamed staff retirements combined with the moratorium on public sector recruitment for the need in increased overtime.

In 2013, overtime payments were €4,979.74 — rising to €586,584.71 by 2015.

Despite the increase in overtime hours, there was no proportionate decrease in the cost of agency staff, which also increased significantly in 2014 to 6.6% of the total nursing pay costs, from 1.1% in 2013.

The auditors noted that there was “no overarching policy and procedure document on the administration, allocation, processing and monitoring of overtime” and that multiple manually completed documents were relied upon as sources for processing overtime.

Meanwhile, auditors found that a mental health service in Cork was paying more than double the staff rate to an agency consultant who was also employed elsewhere by the HSE.

A report on South Lee Mental Health Services found that the consultant:

is currently employed by the HSE directly elsewhere on a part-time basis while also in receipt of a HSE retirement pension in addition to operating as an agency consultant in South Lee MHS.

The audit calculated that the cost of hiring a consultant from an agency would come to €141.61 an hour, compared to €67.71 per hour for a consultant on a HSE contract, when the difference in the rates of pay, and additional agency fees are considered.

“The total cost which South Lee MHS is charged, including agency fees and employer costs, results in South Lee MHS paying 109% more than having the consultant on a HSE contract,” auditors said.

South Lee MHS had previously offered employment contracts to the consultant, but these were not accepted.

The auditors calculated that if the consultant had accepted a contract with South Lee MHS, then the abatement rule would be applicable to their earnings.

The auditors issued a high-priority recommendation that, “given the exceptional circumstances of this arrangement South Lee MHS should consult with HSE South Pensions Management to establish if there is any situation whereby the rules of abatement can accommodate payment to this consultant on HSE payroll”.

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