Press Release

Statement by Minister Harney – Reports about staffing totally inaccurate and misleading

The Minister for Health and Children, Mary Harney said today, “Reports today about staff levels in health are totally inaccurate. They show a complete lack of understanding of public service employment management and the new health service developments announced and underway this year.”

“By the end of this year there will be substantially more staff working in delivering frontline health care services than at the start.”

“The actual facts about increased staffing in health, as follows: •There will be substantial increases, not reductions, in staff levels this year •Priorities are services for older people and for people with disabilities and in hospitals •There will no reduction in patient services anywhere as a result of Government employment control policy or the HSE’s implementation of it

Over 4,800 new posts in health

Over 4,800 new posts are being approved this year in health. The top five areas for service development by new clinical staff are:
•Disabilities 1,400
•Older Persons 1,027.5
•National Hospitals 1,014
•Primary Care 300
•Mental Health 270

Staffing is also being increased for services for children and families, palliative care, social inclusion, chronic disease management and cancer care.

Government policy on employment control

The implementation of Government policy on employment management and control was set out in a letter from the Secretary General of the Department of Health and Children to the Chief Executive of the Health Service Executive on 20th December 2006.

That letter stated that the HSE must ensure:

“that staff costs are controlled and managed to best effect, that an appropriate balance is achieved between clinical and non-clinical posts, that there is a better skill mix within the clinical areas and that staffing levels provide cost-effective and safe/quality care to patients.”

The letter clearly states that the provision of safe and quality care to patients is a key goal of employment management. It clearly does not suggest reducing clinical care services and staff.

In addition, the letter supports the view of the HSE that is vital to manage employment costs so that resources are freed up for service improvements.

The letter stated that the public employment ceiling for 2007, before staff increases arising from new policy initiatives and service development for 2007, was to be reduced from 108,000 to 107,000 as a measure to encourage better management of staff resources.

The misrepresentations today arise from a failure to take account of service developments and associated staff increases this year.

This represents an effort to increase efficiency of staff resources by less than 1 per cent, even as staff levels for service developments are being increased substantially.

This efficiency is to be achieved subject to the maintenance of quality and safe care to patients and in a context of substantially expanding new services and frontline staff.

As anticipated in that letter, the ceiling is to be increased this year to reflect policy initiatives and services developments. The increase is over 4,800 whole time equivalent posts.”