Simon Harris to seek Cabinet approval for health reforms

Changes will be in line with recommendations of Oireachtas committee on healthcare

 Minister for Health Simon Harris will  establish an independent group to examine the impact of separating private practice from the public hospital system. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

Minister for Health Simon Harris will establish an independent group to examine the impact of separating private practice from the public hospital system. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

 

Minister for Health Simon Harris will today seek Cabinet approval for a number of reforms in line with an Oireachtas report on the future of the health service.

Mr Harris will confirm his intention to geographically align hospital groups and community health organisations in line with the recommendation of the Oireachtas committee on the future of healthcare in Ireland.

The Minister is expected to seek support to launch a public consultation next month to assess how such a system can be developed.

Mr Harris will also establish an independent group to examine the impact of separating private practice from the public hospital system.

The Government has been strongly criticised in the aftermath of the budget for its failure to address the recommendations made by the all-party committee report.

Government sources insisted Budget 2018 included a series of announcements “that apply real resources to the reform agenda, including a primary care fund, additional home care and transition beds, reduced charges for prescriptions and further investment in improving access for public patients”.

Single-tier care

Mr Harris is expected to brief his Cabinet colleagues on the steps he is taking to drive the reform, including establishing an Implementation Office.

The Oireachtas committee was established in the aftermath of the 2016 general election and tasked with overseeing a pathway for the next 10 years.

Its report recommended an additional €5.8 billion should be spent on the health service over the next decade in order to provide equal access to universal healthcare.

It also calls for free GP care and free hospital care for all, as well as cuts to, or abolition of, health charges.

The committee agreed a vision of a universal single-tier health and social care system to replace the current mix of public and private.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said some of the recommendations require legal advice but he expects Mr Harris to publish an implementation plan by the end of the year.