HSE winter plan delayed by late decisions on funding

Plan to be submitted to Department of Health for approval in coming days


Special Government funding to address the pressures on the health service last winter – which saw record numbers on trolleys – effectively came too late in the year to be of optimal use, a new Health Service Executive report has said.

While the review by the HSE says special funding for dealing with winter pressures in the health service should be agreed in the summer, the executive’s final plan for this winter will only be submitted to the Department of Health in the coming days.

The examination of the lessons learned from last year – which saw record levels of hospital overcrowding and more than 700 patients on trolleys on occasions – has been finalised in recent days. It says a final and agreed funding plan for winter 2018-2019 should have been signed off by the end of June.

The HSE leadership told the review that winter plans for 2018-2019 should be signed off “by September at the latest”.

The review says “late decision-making can lead to funding not being operationalised to deliver the proposed service improvements to mitigate [a] surge in demand for hospital services”.

The HSE said yesterday that additional funding for this winter had been confirmed by the Government in mid- October. It said a final plan for dealing with additional pressures on services would be submitted to the department within the next few days.

‘Robust preparedness’

“Winter planning is currently well under way and the HSE continues to work with the Department of Health, hospital groups and community health organisations to finalise plans to ensure robust preparedness for winter,” the HSE said.

It said €10million in once-off additional winter funding had been allocated for 2018, and a further €10 million would be invested in 2019 to enable additional beds to be opened for winter 2019-2020 and the years beyond.

Minister for Health Simon Harris said on Monday he was “worried” about the impact on patients attending hospital over the coming winter period, as the problem of patients having to wait on trolleys for a hospital bed continued.

Nurses said there were 449 admitted patients waiting for beds in emergency departments or on wards on Monday.

Last week the Irish Medical Organisation warned that the number of patients on trolleys on some days this coming winter could exceed 1,000.

Mr Harris said : “I say this respectfully, everybody asks am I worried about winter [approaching]; I’m actually worried about the capacity of the health service every day of the week.”

“It’s no longer just a winter problem – we don’t have enough [bed] capacity in the Irish health service.”

Last winter’s health funding ‘came too late’: page 5