Friday 15 December 2017

HSE hands out €3.3bn to 3,000 agencies

Brendan Howlin,TD, the Minister for Public expenditure. Photo: Tom Burke
Brendan Howlin,TD, the Minister for Public expenditure. Photo: Tom Burke
Michael Brennan

Michael Brennan

THE HSE is handing over €3.3bn per year to almost 3,000 different organisations despite being told that it could save money by concentrating its funding.

It is supporting five different groups for older people, five different groups for carers and nine different groups working to prevent suicide.

In total, the HSE pays out over €3.3bn to 2,932 organisations. This accounts for one-quarter of the total health budget. These groups and bodies are all operating independently from the HSE with their own boards of independent members, their own management teams and external auditors.


But the HSE has failed to reduce the number of organisations that it is funding to do the same type of work despite being told that this could increase efficiency and save hundreds of millions of euro.

A report by Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin's department called for the HSE to concentrate on a smaller number of organisations to achieve better value for money on its €3.3bn spend.

"Efficiencies of up to 10-15pc should be achievable through reducing number of organisations funded or reducing the number of transactions," it said.

Last year, the HSE paid €3.8m to the Carers' Association, €939,000 to Caring for Carers Ireland, €131,000 to the West Cork Carers Support Group Ltd and €110,000 to the Careline telephone service operated by the Carers' Association.

It also stated that it paid €104,000 to the "Irish Carers' Association". No such organisation exists but the Carers' Association believes that it received the money in payment for homecare services. The Offaly-based organisation is currently in negotiations with Caring for Carers about a merger – which is due to be completed early next year.

Carers' Association spokeswoman Catherine Cox said: "The bottom line is that carers will get a better service and there will be better value for money as well."

The HSE is funding five groups dedicated to helping older people, with €498,000 paid last year to Age Action Ireland, €562,000 to Age and Opportunity, €234,000 to Active Retirement Ireland, €352,000 to the Ballincollig Senior Citizens club, and €104,000 to the South Dublin Senior Citizens Club.

The HSE also paid large sums to a variety of groups involved in mental health and suicide prevention on top of the sums it provides for its own mental health services. This included €410,00 to the Samaritans last year, €239,000 to Console, €283,000 to Pieta House, €1.4m to GROW, €909,000 to Headstrong, €1.6m to Mental Health Associations, €133,000 to Mental Health Ireland, €164,000 to AWARE and €836,000 to the National Suicide Research Foundation.

Fine Gael Senator Colm Burke, who has been questioning the HSE about its spending, said people were stunned to find out it was dealing with so many organisations.

"We need to look at providing the same level of service with a restructuring and a re-organisation," he said.

The 2,932 organisations funded by the HSE are broken down into two categories. There are 16 voluntary hospitals and 25 agencies that carry out services on the HSE's behalf.


They get a total of €1.5bn per year. These include the National Maternity Hospital and the Central Remedial Clinic, which have been at the centre of the salary "top-up" payments scandal.

The remaining 2,891 organisations carry out services which the HSE is not legally required to provide but are crucial for many vulnerable people. The vast majority – around 2,300 – get €100,000 or less per year from the HSE. But 131 of them get between €1m and €10m from the HSE per year.

The HSE is now writing to all these organisations to ensure that their pay rates for senior managers – which are not generally publicly available – are in line with those paid to HSE staff.

Irish Independent

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