HSE National Service Plan represents ‘little new and nothing inspired’ – Ó Caoláin
Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has described the HSE National Service Plan announced today as “wholly inadequate”.
The National Service Plan 2015 for the health services was published today following approval by the Minister for Health Leo Varadkar. The Service Plan lays out the type and level of services that the HSE is to provide both directly and through agencies funded by it.
Deputy Ó Caoláin said:
“There are now 50,000 outpatients on waiting lists for more than a year. There is nothing in this so called National Service Plan that reassures me that these numbers can be significantly reduced in the short term. Fair Deal continues to be underprovided for, leading to families stretched to breaking point and delayed discharges, yet this plan only offers the already announced €25 million.
“The minor increase in numbers of doctors and nurses is undoubtedly necessary, but the numbers mentioned only go a very small way towards addressing some of the most savage cuts in staff numbers in recent years.
“Many of the positive measures in the plan have already been announced. I welcome the additional €20m funding for disability services. But this is only a drop in the ocean. In Sinn Féin’s alternative budget we would have provided an additional €31 million for these services, openly acknowledging that even that would not be enough due to years of severe underfunding.
“€25m is allocated for free GP care for children under 6 years of age, yet we still are not sure whether there will be a so called ‘nominal’ charge by GPs for this care. The €55 million for ICT capital investment is to be welcomed but we must know when we will see sight of Unique Patient Identifiers. Other areas of the plan focus on Patient Quality, Safety and Accountability Frameworks. We will have to wait to see what effect this will have on how services are provided.
“The plan is being sold as adding an extra €625 million to the health spend next year, but €510 million is the 2014 overspend carried forward, leaving only an additional €115 million.
“Knowing the HSE’s history the likelihood is that much of this and more will yet be used to cover increased usage of the services that comes naturally with our population demographics.
“The plan also aims to cut spending on drugs and agency staff. The spend on agency staff must be reduced, but this cannot be done without also looking at ensuring adequate staffing levels.
“This plan does nothing of the sort and is wholly inadequate in its address of the many challenges that present today across our health services. All in all the plan tells us little new and contains nothing inspired.”