Government to re-establish board to oversee operation of HSE

New group to assess impact of eliminating private practice in public hospitals

Minister for Health Simon Harris. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Minister for Health Simon Harris. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins


The Government is to re-establish a board to oversee the operation and performance of the Health Service Executive (HSE).

At a meeting in Cork on Friday the Cabinet also agreed to establish an independent group to examine the impact of separating private practice from the public hospital system, as proposed in the Sláintecare health service reform blueprint. The Sláintecare plan for publicly funded healthcare was published in May.

Minister for Health Simon Harris said the group would be chaired by Donal de Buitléir, the chairman of the Low Pay Commission and a former member of a previous board of the HSE.

The last HSE board was abolished in 2011 under reforms introduced by the then minister for health, James Reilly.

Mr Harris said the Sláintecare report had argued that the current HSE governance structure was not fit for purpose and that an independent board needed to be put in place.

“I intend to establish a board to strengthen the oversight and performance of the HSE. This will require legislation and I hope to have a board, with very strong competencies across key areas, established in 2018,” Mr Harris said.

He said he intends to launch a public consultation on the future alignment of hospitals groups and community health organisations next month. He said the HSE had made considerable progress in establishing hospital groups and community health organisations, but as the Sláintecare report made clear, greater alignment between them could improve health service delivery and population-based planning.

Mr Harris said he strongly supported the vision for the future of the health service as set out in the Sláintecare report. He said he had secured in Budget 2018 €1 million in funding to establish a programme office to drive the Sláintecare reform and preparations were underway to recruit a lead executive.

“Previous plans for health reform have tended to come unstuck in the implementation phase, which is why I am investing at this point in the implementation structures.”

Speaking after the Cabinet meeting in Cork, Mr Harris said: “Sláintecare is a very good and honest effort to try and put in place a long-term vision for the health service.”

“I think the destination it wants to take us to is one we all want to be in, it’s one where we can arrive at a place where the health service can look after people on the basis of need rather than ability to pay and it can do more in primary care in a community setting rather than in an acute hospital setting.”

“But there are now obviously the big issues that we have to grapple with: How do we make sure the health service doesn’t continue to operate in silos? How do we get to a situation where we can devolve more to the regional areas and let hospitals in a community hub setting work together in the interest of their patients?

“How do we grapple with that big issue in relation to public and private, and decoupling private medicine from the public health service, and how do we make sure we have a health service that is more accountable, and who does the HSE answer to?”