Health budget faces cuts of €900m in 2013

Mon, Nov 19, 2012, 00:00

The health service is facing spending cuts of about €900 million next year – much more than previously anticipated, the Department of Health has confirmed.

Separately, new proposals under the Croke Park agreement show that the Government wants to see, at a minimum, a further 3,231 staff leaving the health service next year. However, the documents warn that this figure could rise to 3,777.

Minister for Health James Reilly has warned on a number of occasions in recent months that the health budget for next year could see reductions of about €700 million.

However official documentation, seen by The Irish Times, shows that the projected levels of cuts for next year have been getting larger over recent weeks.

On October 17th health service management told trade unions that “the public health service must deal with an effective reduction in resources in 2013-14 of some €1 billion”.

Two weeks later on November 2nd in management proposals for reform under the Croke Park agreement, the Department of Health said the health service was facing cuts of about €1 billion next year alone.

Proposals submitted

In a statement yesterday the Department of Health said: “The department is working intensively with the HSE on proposals, which have been submitted to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to address structural expenditure issues in the context of the 2013 estimates.

“It is anticipated that savings of approximately €900 million will be required to meet Government savings targets, unavoidable pressures and programme for government commitments.”

Separately, a new draft “action plan” for reforms in the health service under the Croke Park agreement said that given the scale of the cuts for next year, additional initiatives to achieve further measurable savings would be required in the areas of the drug payment schemes, private health insurance reimbursement, procurement, shared services and a more productive match between staffing and service activity levels.

The document signalled a reduction in staffing levels of at least 3,231 whole-time equivalent personnel would be required next year.

It warned that if other posts in the health service, which had been approved and funded but not filled, were taken into account, the figure could rise to 3,777.

It said trade unions had argued that the targets for funding cuts and staffing reductions – even if there was full staff co-operation – could not be met while maintaining a safe public health service.

The Croke Park draft action plan also signalled that in its service plan for next year the HSE would be seeking “more cost-effective provision of public nursing home services” as an alternative to contractions in capacity.

Apart from having to deal with cuts of about €900 million for next year, the Department of Health is having to deal with a major overrun in health spending for this year.

Figures last week showed the HSE had recorded a deficit of just less than €400 million to the end of September.