Government to pare back HSE structures, says Harris

Minister rules out a return to old health board system in new reforms

Minister for Health Simon Harris: We need to find a way we can have accountability at regional level.

Minister for Health Simon Harris: We need to find a way we can have accountability at regional level.


The Government wants to pare back the existing HSE structures and devolve more to the regions, the Minister for Health Simon Harris has said.

Answering questions at the Oireachtas committee on the future of mental health on Wednesday he said existing HSE structures had become very bureaucratic.

“The way the HSE developed is not the way any one would have imagined a national health organisation developing,” he said.

However, he said the proposed Government healthcare reforms would not mean a return to the old system of health boards.

He said the health boards were clearly imperfect and there was a need for a national organisation to do things at a national level in the health service.

The existing health service regional forum structures were not adequate to hold people to account, he said.

He said in the old health board system there were facilities for front line staff and representatives to ask tricky questions.

“We need to find a way we can have accountability at regional level as well as need to look at a structure that is not going back to the health boards,” Mr Harris said.


The Minister said his priority after the passing of legislation to allow for the re-establishment of an overall HSE board later this year would be to see what other accountability mechanisms could be put into legislation.

“I see that as moving towards regional structures as envisaged in Slaintecare(the reform blueprint for the health service drawn up last year by an all-party Oireachtas committee) with boards that will hold people to account”.

Mr Harris also told the committee that there would be an increase of €55million provided for the budget for mental health services next year.

He also said he was open to the suggestion that the Mental Health Commission should be given greater powers.

“Since 2012, we have provided an additional €200 million for mental health services. This brings the total amount available to the HSE for mental health services this year to over €910 million and, as you may know, there is a commitment to provide an additional €55 million in 2019. “

“While this amount is significant by any standard we will continue to seek additional investment in mental health under the Programme for Government. As everyone here knows well, the availability of additional funding, however, is not an end in itself. Staffing recruitment and retention are currently proving difficult. The lack of availability of specialist grades in the area of mental health is a global issue which requires new and innovative approaches to recruitment and retention to be identified and implemented. “

The Minister of State at the Department of Health Jim Daly said the introduction of telepsychiatry services could revolutionise services.