Over 40% of Sláintecare reforms suffered delay last year, report finds

Provision of home care 2.5 million hours below target, with waiting lists too long

Over 40 per cent of goals for health care reform suffered delay last year, according to a progress report on the Sláintecare plan.

Sixteen per cent of “deliverables” were subject to significant delay last year, 19 per cent had minor delays and six per cent were completed later than planned, the report published by the Department of Health states.

Key projects facing challenges include waiting list reduction, the removal of private care from public hospitals and recruitment - all of them central planks of the Sláintecare report which was published six years ago.

The provision of home care was over 2.5 million hours below target due to issue around carer capacity, while waiting lists are described as “too long”.


Speaking at the Oireachtas health committee on Wednesday, department secretary general Robert Watt said significant progress continued to be made in transforming the delivery of health services as well as working to deliver longer-term change.

More than 17,000 additional staff have been recruited by the HSE, he pointed out, and 25 per cent more critical care capacity has been added in two years.

No additional staff will be recruited to work in the new regional health authorities, which are due to start operating next year, HSE director general Bernard Gloster told the committee. The HSE will soon begin an international campaign to promote the new consultant contract, he added.

Asked how many doctors have signed up to the new consultant contract in operation since last month, Mr Watt said it was too early to say. The new contract was not “in situ” long enough to judge, he said, and it would be three to six months before the trend became apparent.

There is almost no space to provide new hospital beds without building new hospitals, the committee heard.

Mr Watt said there was “almost no opportunity” to develop beds from existing space in the system. He agreed with the assessment of the Economic and Social Research Institute that almost 1,000 additional beds were needed, but pointed out that many hospitals are already operating at over 95 per cent capacity.

While there is no funding for new hospital builds at present, the Department will be engaging with ministers on providing more capacity, he said.

Mr Watt undertook to provide the committee with information on the money spent on private medicine in the public health system after hearing his officials told a TD it was not available.

Sinn Fein health spokesman David Cullinane said that when he asked for the amount of money spent on private medicine he was told this information was not available.

Mr Cullinane said it was “staggering” that he could not be told about the level of private healthcare outsourcing in the system.

Mr Watt said he was not aware of the question but he promised to provide the committee with a briefing on the issue.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is a former heath editor of The Irish Times.