Nurses’ deal costs three times Government’s original estimate

Agreement that ended strike to cost €48 million this year, Department of Health says

Fianna Fáil  criticised Minister for Health Simon Harris over a failure to set out the cost of the nurses’ deal when answering a parliamentary question last week. Photograph: Alan Betson

Fianna Fáil criticised Minister for Health Simon Harris over a failure to set out the cost of the nurses’ deal when answering a parliamentary question last week. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

The cost of the deal which ended the nurses’ strike last February is now more than three times the original estimate put forward by the Government at the time.

The Department of Health revealed on Wednesday that the nurses’ agreement would cost €48 million to implement this year.

In February, the Government said implementation of the Labour Court’s recommendation on the nurses dispute would cost €10-15 million this year and €30-35 million next year after productivity and savings initiatives were taken into account.

However, a Department of Health report to the Oireachtas committee on the overall supplementary estimate of more than €300 million for the health service said the implementation of the agreement would cost €48 million in total this year. This includes €19.2 million associated with the rollout of the new enhanced nurse practice role; €13.6 million associated with the Public Service Pay Commission recommendations on allowances; and €8.3 million for an extension of allowances to those nurses and midwives working in medical and surgical areas. It also included €2.3 million related to other elements of the agreement and €5 million for investment in the framework on safe staffing and skill mix.

“It is anticipated that this agreement will achieve an amount of savings through reduction of agency spend where the framework is in place and through productivity measures in the new enhanced practice role,” the report said.

Fianna Fáil, meanwhile, criticised Minister for Health Simon Harris over a failure to set out the cost of the nurses’ deal when answering a parliamentary question last week.

Fianna Fáil TD John Brassil said the cost in 2019 of implementing the nurses’ pay deal is three to four times the estimate given last February and last week when he tabled a parliamentary question on the topic he was not given those figures.

“I do not believe that at the start of last week the Minister for Health was unaware of this cost,” he said.

“It is clear to me that the Minister knew the cost of the nurses’ pay deal but chose not to divulge this information.”

Budget overrun

Meanwhile, Health Service Executive chief executive Paul Reid is set to tell the Oireachtas Committee on Health on Thursday that the HSE was over budget by €319 million to the end of September.

His opening statement, seen by The Irish Times, said efforts to improve compliance with pay and staffing controls were “proving difficult”.

“A key priority for the HSE is to maximise the provision of safe services to the people we serve, whilst operating within the funding provided to us. This continues to be a significant challenge in the context of the ever increasing level of demand for our services which is influenced by factors such as a growing population with an aging demographic, changes in technology and clinical practice, as well as ongoing societal and economic change.”

He will tell TDs that the latest financial position, as at September 2019, shows “a variance from budget, including first charge, of €319 million or 3 per cent”.