HSE service plan to target waiting times and cancer care

Plans expected to include €25m for free GP care for under-sixes

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar hopes to reverse the fall in the number of nurses. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar hopes to reverse the fall in the number of nurses. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Targeted measures to tackle waiting lists, the recruitment of hundreds of extra doctors and nurses and the expansion of cancer services are outlined in the HSE’s service plan, to be published today.

The plan envisages savings totalling €130 million, to come from cuts in spending on drugs, procurement, agency staff and clinical audit.

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar hopes to reverse the fall in the number of nurses working in the health service and intends to advertise about 200 consultant posts, but this is dependent on agreement being reached with the Irish Medical Organisation on pay.

The plan foresees €25million in spending on free GP care for under-6s, and €12 million on free GP care for all over-70s. An extra €20 million is expected to be provided for disability services.

The plan, which sets out the HSE’s spending priorities for next year, is likely to be the most benign since the economic crisis forced severe cuts to the health budget in 2008. The service plan for this year envisaged spending reductions of €666 million, but this target was never reached.

Sources say there will be little “real” money available to fund new initiatives in the HSE compared with this year.

Mr Varadkar announced in last month’s budget the health service was to get extra funding of €305 million in Exchequer funding, plus once-off funding of €330 million.

However, with the HSE budget expected to overrun by €550 million this year, it means the extra funds effectively available for 2015, when a similar level of spending can be expected, is far smaller than this €635 million.

Patients on trolleys

More detail is expected as to how the €25 million announced in the budget to tackle the problem of delayed discharges is to be spent.

Some measures have already been signalled, such as a start to extending BreastCheck to women up to the age of 69. There will be more investment in mental health and suicide prevention.

The plan includes the continued implementation of oncology programmes and the recruitment of additional staff to meet growing cancer needs. An additional consultant urologist will be recruited in the southwest and a paediatric radiation oncologist is to be appointed for St Luke’s Hospital and Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin. It is also proposed to establish a national hereditary cancer service.