Frontline services to suffer as 3,200 leave

FRONTLINE services will be hit by a further planned reduction of 3,200 staff this year, the chief executive of the HSE has admitted.

Cathal Magee said that about 85% of all staff who worked in the health system provided frontline services.

The HSE warned in its national service plan for 2012 that it would be impossible to avoid an impact on frontline services.

“One cannot absorb that level of resource reduction without impacting on the delivery system,” said Mr Magee yesterday.

He pointed out that in the past two years, reductions in health expenditure had been achieved largely through a combination of procurement efficiencies, successive drug price reductions and staff costs.

“A key driver of cost reductions for 2012 will be the exit of a further 3,000 staff from the health services,” said Mr Magee when the health authority published its service plan for 2012.

“Together with a budget reduction of €750 million, the challenge will be to accelerate the implementation of the national clinical programmes and the new models of care and continue to drive efficiencies in order to offsets the impact on frontline services.”

He said plans to reduce agency staff by up to 50% would be partly achieved through substitution of staff directly employed by the health service.

While an end-of-year employment ceiling of 102,100 has been set, there will be selective and targeted recruitment in key priority areas.

An extra 400 staff are to be employed in mental health services this year. Additional staff will also be recruited for primary care and the national clinical care programmes.

Mr Magee said the service plan also recognised the increasing need to accelerate the various reform programmes, particularly the introduction of new models of care across the various health services.

“So with that kind of innovation and the ongoing drive for further efficiencies in every aspect of the health service, we will seek as a matter of the highest priority to seek to minimise the impact on frontline services,” he said.

He said the HSE was required to make cost reductions of the order of €750m.

He said the €494m was set out in the Government’s estimates but an additional €256m was driving the need for more spending reductions.

He said the cost of seeing 3,200 people leave the system this year would be about €183m.

He said funding for the acute hospital system was 4% less than that approved last year.

He added that the reduction needed for hospitals to break even was almost 8%, with about 6% affecting service delivery.

“It is too early to say what the reduction in bed capacity will be across the acute hospital system but it will be another challenging year for it.”

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