James Reilly says controversial health service reform proposals were part of agreed Government policy

Official Department of Health briefing material given to Leo Varadkar described proposals as “unworkable”

James Reilly: . A spokesman for the former minister for health said: “In keeping with agreed Government policy, Minister Reilly was implementing a radical reform plan to end the current unfair two-tier health system.” Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

James Reilly: . A spokesman for the former minister for health said: “In keeping with agreed Government policy, Minister Reilly was implementing a radical reform plan to end the current unfair two-tier health system.” Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

Radical reform proposals for the health service criticised by senior Department of Health officials were in keeping with agreed Government policy, a spokesman for the former minister for health and current Minister for Children James Reilly has said.

The spokesman said it was “not uncommon for a Government department to express concerns at proposals for very significant change”.

Official Department of Health briefing material given to the new Minister for Health Leo Varadkar in July described proposed structures for replacing the HSE, which had been championed by Dr Reilly, as “unworkable”.

The briefing material was approved by senior management in the department prior to being given to Mr Varadkar.

Fianna Fáil has said the revelations raised questions about Dr Reilly’s continued presence in the Cabinet.

The Irish Times reported on Saturday that the Department of Health considered the proposed structures to be “an unworkable construct”.

The briefing material said the full implementation of the policy proposals “would lead to a wide range of new statutory organisations”.

‘Future health’

The second stage of this involved the dissolution of the HSE and the division of the health service between purchasers and providers.

This was to lead to the establishment of a system of universal health insurance.

In order to bring this about, a number of bodies were to be set up, such as a healthcare commissioning agency, a pricing office and a patient safety agency; revised structures for primary, social and mental healthcare were to be established and hospital groups were to be transformed into trusts.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the revelations were “extraordinary”.

On Saturday Fianna Fáil health spokesperson Billy Kelleher said they were “very serious”.

“ A senior Government minister was told in very stark terms to stop doing what he was doing because of the damage he was causing, but he and all his colleagues, from the Taoiseach down, continued to insist to citizens that everything in the garden was rosy and that their plans were on track.

“It raises fundamental questions about the honesty of the Government and must surely put pressure on James Reilly’s continued participation in Government.”

Health plan ‘collapsed’

“Their plan made no sense, was unworkable and has now collapsed.”

Meanwhile former minister of state Róisín Shortall said Taoiseach Enda Kenny had dismissed concerns she had raised about the reform plans.

She said she had raised concerns at a special meeting with the Taoiseach, Dr Reilly and the former Labour leader Eamon Gilmore in July 2012. She feared the proposals would see “the hiving off of different parts of the health service to the insurance industry, and to the private sector”.

Early last month, Mr Varadkar announced he was postponing the abolition of the HSE. He also said he was delaying the introduction of universal health insurance.

A spokesman for Dr Reilly said last night: “In keeping with agreed Government policy, Minister Reilly was implementing a radical reform plan to end the current unfair two-tier health system. Many of the building blocks on the road to that goal have already been put in place.”