Over-spend of €24m on HSE staff after vow to save €33m
THE bill for hiring agency staff in the health service is already €24m higher this year than for the same period in 2010 -- despite it being earmarked as an area for major savings.
The review of the implementation of the Croke Park agreement yesterday hailed the projected savings of €33m in health service agency staff in 2011 as one of its successes.
It was learned yesterday that the Health Service Executive (HSE) has so far been unable to contain its bill for hiring agency staff and it has already spent €24m more in the first four months of 2011 than it did during the same period last year.
The over-spend underlines how even rigorous efforts to reduce costs are threatened in areas of the public service that are heavily reliant on large numbers of workers.
The agency staff are now vital to many health services, which are hit by a shortage of full-time workers who are not being replaced due to the moratorium on recruitment.
The HSE made the prediction that it could achieve the savings after striking a new deal with firms that provide agency staff.
Under the new system, these firms tendered for the HSE work and a limited number were chosen to supply staff. The competition meant that the fees for agency staff fell.
It intended to use the same number of agency staff as last year but the new arrangement would be cheaper because of the revised contracts.
The HSE said yesterday that it had utilised agency staff over a number of decades to fill short-term vacancies.
"This flexibility is an ongoing requirement to maintain necessary services," it said.
It added there was a potential saving of €33m but it was unclear how it would be able to claw back the over-spend.