Harris may appoint person with clinical expertise to HSE board

Oireachtas committee backs changes to Government plans in vote on Wednesday

Fianna Fáil health spokesman Stephen Donnelly put forward the amendment.  Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Fianna Fáil health spokesman Stephen Donnelly put forward the amendment. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

Minister for Health Simon Harris is to consider appointing a person with clinical expertise to the new board of the HSE, which would be a significant change to his original plan for the organisation.

The move comes after the Oireachtas Health Committee voted to alter the Government’s current proposals for the composition of the board when it supported an amendment put forward on Wednesday by the Fianna Fáil health spokesman Stephen Donnelly.

In January, Mr Harris appointed eight members of the new HSE board.

These included former Barnardos chief executive Fergus Finlay, patient advocates Mark Molloy and Dr Sarah McLoughlin, UCC law professor Prof Deirdre Madden and Tim Hynes, group chief information officer of AIB.

The Government had last autumn appointed Ciarán Devane, chief executive of the British Council, to chair the board.

Mr Donnelly maintained it was “astonishing” the Government had failed to appoint anyone with a clinical background to serve on the new HSE board which is to be re-introduced as part of new healthcare reforms.

A previous board to oversee the HSE was abolished a number of years ago by former minister for health James Reilly.

After the committee meeting on Wednesday, Mr Donnelly said on foot of the amendment, the Government would now be mandated to ensure the new board had members with clinical, financial, and patient advocacy expertise.

He said his amendment provided for one patient advocate, two clinical experts and one financial expert to sit on the HSE board along with four other members.

The Department of Health said the new board would be the governing body of the HSE.

It said that prior to the amendment adopted by the health committee on Wednesday, the Government’s proposed legislation “allowed for a range of competencies as it provided that board members must be people with sufficient experience and expertise relating to matters connected with the HSE’s functions and specified in particular a requirement that a minimum of two of these members must have experience or expertise in patient advocacy”.

The Department of Health said a process put in place by the Public Appointments Service had resulted in the selection of eight people “who together ensured that the desired competencies were represented, including clinical governance expertise, with a further member to be selected with financial expertise”.

“While the Minister will be considering the amendment in detail, it does appear initially that the current proposed board, with the addition of the financial expertise, will meet the intention of the amendment, with the exception of specific clinical expertise and this addition will have to be given careful thought.”