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Workforce plan is due this year

03 Mar 2017

In his quarterly update to the Joint Oireachtas Health Committee, Minister Simon Harris has explained how scheduled care would be the main priority from spring through to winter 2017. Gary Culliton reports.

A joint HSE/ Department of Health report and a high-level implementation plan are due this year on a national integrated strategic framework for health workforce planning, “with the objective of recruiting and retaining the right mix of staff”, according to the Minister for Health.

During the past year, more than 100 additional hospital consultants, almost 250 extra NCHDs and nearly 500 additional nurses and midwives had been employed by the HSE, an Oireachtas Committee was informed last week (Feb 22).

In September 2016, the HSE set up a project group to review nursing workforce planning, recruitment and retention, and this was last month due to report back to the HSE’s National Director of Human Resources (HR).

Meanwhile, overall waiting list figures rose in January and it would take some time before they would start to go down, the Minister Simon Harris told the Joint Oireachtas Health Committee. Scheduled care would be the main priority from spring through to winter 2017, he added, as part of his regular quarterly update on issues within the health service.

Minister Harris explained to the Committee how the HSE had put in place an action plan to halve the number of patients waiting 18 months or more for their inpatient or day-case procedures. Through that action plan, more than 11,500 patients came off the inpatient/day-case waiting list from August to December 2016.

Also last year, the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) undertook an endoscopy waiting list initiative to arrange for the provision of endoscopy procedures to patients waiting longer than 12 months. By the end of December, 5,500 people had come off that waiting list.

A total of €20 million has been allocated to the NTPF, rising to €55 million in 2018, said the Minister, who added that the NTPF was starting with a dedicated €5 million day-case waiting list initiative — with the aim that no patient would be waiting more than 18 months for a procedure by June 30.

It is expected that more than 2,000 patients will receive treatment through this process and that patients will commence receiving appointments for treatment during March. The main areas of focus will be those lists with large numbers of long waiting day-case patients, namely: ENT, ophthalmology, general surgery, dental, urology and vascular surgery.

The Minister was due to receive a HSE 2017 Waiting List Action Plan at the end of February, which would outline waiting list initiatives to be driven by hospitals and Hospital Groups. This plan is due to concentrate on reducing the length of time patients wait for an inpatient, day-case or outpatient appointment, with the aim of no patient waiting longer than 15 months by the end of October.

The HSE and the NTPF are also working together to utilise capacity in both the public and private sector, and the plan will be supported by the NTPF’s proposal for the remaining €10 million allocation in 2017 for patient treatment, Minister Harris indicated.

The HSE was working on a specific action plan on scoliosis, which was also due by the end of February, the Minister elaborated. While additional funding had been provided in recent years to develop paediatric orthopaedic services, including scoliosis services, a total of €2 million was made available under the Winter Initiative funding in 2016 and more than 50 additional children and teenagers were treated under this initiative.

The new theatre at Crumlin Hospital would provide additional capacity for scoliosis procedures from April, following the recruitment of additional nurses, and an orthopaedic surgeon post in Crumlin would be filled by June — following which, the hospital expected the theatre use would be further increased.

Winter Initiative

Listing some of the enhancements since the start of the Winter Initiative, Minister Harris said that an additional 711 patients had availed of community intervention team (CIT) services. Furthermore, approximately 4,250 patients had availed of aids and appliances and under the initiative some 990-plus additional homecare packages had been made available, with more than 5,800 additional transitional care beds approved since early October.

Also, 90 newly opened extra beds had come on stream in the Mercy Hospital Cork, University Hospital Galway, the Mater, Beaumont and Mullingar.

In line with the commitment in the Programme for a Partnership Government, a bed capacity review was currently under way. “Systematic analysis of the capacity requirements of the health service is an obvious requirement of proper planning and management,” Minister Harris told the Committee.

This review would be comprehensive with a wider scope than previous reviews, which focused on bed capacity in acute hospitals only.

The Minister stressed that acute hospital bed capacity was directly affected by capacity availability in other parts of the health service, such as primary care, long-term residential care, homecare, respite, rehabilitation, and palliative care.

Bed capacity

While the review would consider capacity requirements over the next decade or so, it was also expected to have a short-term focus given the current pressures within hospital services, added Minister Harris. It would also feed into the mid-term review of the capital programme, due later this year.

During 2017, each Hospital Group will be required to develop a strategic plan to describe how they will provide more efficient and effective patient services and demonstrate a co-ordinated approach to the planning and delivery of services within and across the hospital groups.

The system of individual health identifiers (IHIs) would also be deployed across the public and the private healthcare system, added Minister Harris, following on from the success of the electronic health record, which became reality in December 2016 with the arrival of Ireland’s first “digital babies” in Cork and the deployment of the IHI Register in the health sector, Minister Harris noted.

The post Workforce plan is due this year appeared first on Irish Medical Times.

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