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High-level political leadership crucial to delivering reforms

30 May 2017

High-level political leadership will be crucial to delivering the essential reforms contained in the Oireachtas Committee on the Future of Healthcare Sláintecare Report, the RCPI has stressed.

Welcoming the publication, RCPI President Prof Frank Murray said political consensus to implement its recommendations was now crucial. “Health is the issue that is of primary importance for Irish citizens and the report’s recommendation to create a Sláintecare Programme Implementation Office under the auspices of An Taoiseach to oversee the implementation plan is essential,” he stated.

The report envisages that this Implementation Office could be set up by July, with the remit to oversee and enable the implementation of this report and develop a detailed implementation plan for the reform programme.

A highly independent senior level Lead Executive (equivalent to Secretary General) with specific experience in change management should also be identified and recruited by July, with the rest of the staff – the majority of whom should be external recruits – in place by October.

Up to €10 million in funding should be ring-fenced for its lifecycle, the report adds.

The new Implementation Office should work closely with the HSE and would have representation on the management teams at both national and regional level, and report directly to the Minister for Health, the Oireachtas Committee has also suggested.

A detailed implementation programme project plan for each year of the plan should be drawn up, identifying key milestones by December 2017, which can be monitored across sectors, and a first draft of the detailed implementation project plan should be published by the end of the year.

The detailed implementation process also suggests that the Dáil should be briefed, with a debate on the progress of the report, by the Minister of Health every four months in the first year, to gain momentum, and every six months thereafter. This would help maintain progress, continue high-level political involvement and further consolidate sustained action and support, the cross-party Committee suggested.

Prof Murray said there was now clear consensus about the key elements to effective reforms. “This includes re-creating the healthcare system to ensure that all care being provided to patients is integrated and fully joined-up; the importance of taking steps to reduce the burden of disease by supporting the population to be healthy and the adequate resourcing of Healthy Ireland; and the need to invest in community care and community diagnostic services.

“There is also a recognition of the need to expand the capacity in the public hospital system and in the community to deliver patient-centred care,” he added.

Dr Tom Keane

The Sláintecare Report echoes many of the recommendations of the Towards 2026  expert policy report published by the RCPI in March, which outlined a vision for patient-centred care for the next decade.  Towards 2026 was chaired by Dr Tom Keane, who implemented reform of the Irish cancer services.

Commenting on the Sláintecare Report, Dr Keane said: “This report is directionally correct in my view. Translating these proposals into a multi-year implementation plan will be a real challenge. Major system and structural change on a living healthcare system which must continue to function during change has real risk and serious discussion of the risks involved and how they can be mitigated must be part of the plan.”

RCPI Chief Executive Leo Kearns added that the Towards 2026 process, which included patients and carers, doctors and other healthcare professionals, hospital managers and policymakers, showed that patient-centred services is what the Irish public want and deserve.

Leo Kearns, RCPI CEO

“Fixing the health service to meet the needs of those who require care is an enormous task, but it is not impossible. Change of this scale will require sustained political support for the next decade and beyond. With this level of political leadership, there will be support from patients, those working in the health services and from the wider community.

“The Sláintecare Report provides a once-off opportunity that must not be squandered,” he concluded.

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