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‘Attract and retain’ issue is behind rise

11 Sep 2015

Spending on agency staff in the year to May was €138.20 million, 82 per cent of the HSE’s 2015 annual budget for agency services. However, the HSE said that agency expenditure in May was 9.3 per cent lower than in May 2014.

The total HSE agency budget for 2015 is €164.94 million. In the year to April, HSE expenditure on agency staff was €111.57 million — 67.65 per cent of its 2015 budget for agency services. Agency spending in May was €26,628,000, compared to €29,345,000 in May 2014.

The agency cost for the month of April this year was €28,129,000 compared to €27,746,000 in April 2014. Medical staff, which accounts for 34 per cent of agency cost, is where the HSE is under the greatest pressure, where premium cost is highest and inability to attract and retain — as opposed to approval or funding — is the key issue.

In recent months, the Acute and Social Care Services had experienced exceptional pressures due to the “very high” levels of delayed discharges that had impacted on the Executive’s ability to reduce agency costs as it struggled to open and maintain additional bed capacity, the HSE said. A range of measures have been put in place to deal with these issues, including transitioning to replacing agency staff with staff on two-year contracts.

Where the budget allowed, agency staff may be used where no alternative was possible and where there was a short-term critical service need, the HSE said in response to Dáil questioning by FF Deputy Billy Kelleher.

“The HSE has in place robust processes to ensure all possible staffing options are considered prior to the use of agency staff ensuring that standards of safety and quality care for patients are met,” the HSE said.

Gary Culliton

Click here to view the full article which appeared in Irish Medical Times