No decision on supplementary health funding

Nurses say millions could be saved if tasks carried out by doctors transferred to them

Nurses claim the HSE can save over €21 million by transferring certain duties from doctors to them. Photograph: David Cheskin/PA Wire

Nurses claim the HSE can save over €21 million by transferring certain duties from doctors to them. Photograph: David Cheskin/PA Wire

Wed, Oct 23, 2013, 01:00

The Government has made no decision on whether supplementary funding will be provided to the health service this year, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has said.

Minister for Health James Reilly has indicated that he would require a supplementary estimate to take account of a financial deficit in the health service this year.

He has suggested that the figure could be about €150 million and would not be more than €200 million.

Other sources in Government have suggested that ultimately the figure for the overrun could be higher.

Asked yesterday whether the supplementary funding had been agreed, a spokeswoman said the Government had made no decision on its provision.

Official figures to be released later this week will show that the HSE recorded a deficit of about €71 million to the end of August.

Last week the chief executive of the HSE, Tony O’Brien, confirmed that the health authority would be about €40 million short of meeting its official target of generating savings of €150 million this year under the Haddington Road agreement on public service pay and productivity.

He said the Haddington Road measures would produce a maximum of €110 million in savings this year.

Any decision by the Government not to cover the full amount of the overrun in the health service this year could result in the savings required for 2014 increasing even further.

Officially the health service will be required by the Government to generate savings of €666 million next year.

However The Irish Times reported last Saturday that senior health service figures believed the scale of cuts could ultimately reach €1 billion if a number of promised, but unfunded, developments such as the upgrading of maternity services and the introduction of reduced hours for doctors were to be implemented.

Transferred duties
Meanwhile nurses have maintained that millions of euro currently paid out in unrostered overtime to non-consultant doctors in hospitals could be saved if a number of duties carried out by medics were transferred to them.

Under the Haddington Road agreement the costs incurred in unrostered overtime for non-consultant doctors for carrying out tasks such as intravenous cannulation, phlebotomy, the first dose of medicines and nurse- led discharge were to be assessed in a number of centres.

Speaking at a special conference of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation in Dublin yesterday, its director of industrial relations, Phil Ní Sheaghdha, said the cost of unrostered overtime for carrying out such duties at Beaumont Hospital was €961,000.

She maintained the data suggested that across the country in similar-sized hospitals with similar numbers of non-consultant doctors, a total of €21.37 million could be saved.

Ms Ní Sheaghdha said the HSE had challenged the figures for estimated savings.