HSE chief: Reforms in health service too often take ‘awful long time’

Health service should be ‘ashamed’ of conditions some patients experience, chief clinical officer tells conference

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has “no shortage” of new plans and policies but is struggling to implement those reforms without lengthy delays, new chief executive Bernard Gloster has told staff.

Speaking on Thursday, Mr Gloster said the “timely implementation” of new plans and promised reforms was a “challenge” for the health service.

“I’m not sure I want to wait four years for something that’s perfect, as opposed to maybe less time for something that is continuously improving,” he said.

“We’re not short on plans, we’re not short on policies ... But we come short repeatedly on timely implementation. Sometimes we get there, but it takes an awful long time,” he said.


The health service had to try to avoid “stagnation” and instances where policies were issued “and somebody hopes it gets implemented,” Mr Gloster said.

One other challenge facing the health service was public confidence, he said.

Patients expected a health service that was “effective and timely, provided by healthcare professionals who talk to each other and work together,” which he added was “not that big an ask”.

Mr Gloster, who took over as HSE chief executive this March, was speaking at a conference on innovation for HSE staff in Dublin.

Dr Colm Henry, HSE chief clinical officer, told the conference that at present the health service was “letting older people down”.

Hospitals had seen a 15 per cent increase in older people presenting to emergency departments, which would continue to increase given the country’s ageing population, he said.

“We have centres of excellence; a new children’s hospital, new maternity hospital, that should be the pride of any health service,” he said.

However, he added, nearby those planned new facilities there were patients in “conditions that we should be ashamed of”.

There was a “serious sense of purpose” to address the fact that “we are letting older people down,” the senior HSE official said.

“There’s no denying the shadow of the pandemic and what we learned during the pandemic. We learnt in particular how we need to protect the most vulnerable, that we’re not all protected until everybody is protected,” he said.

“There is higher expectations, people expect better healthcare now, from Letterkenny to Wexford,” he said.

Dr Henry said the health service also had to get better at preventing or catching diseases in people earlier, before they presented to a hospital emergency department.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is a reporter with The Irish Times