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Tuesday 21 November 2017

'Patient champion' takes edge off €666m cuts

Reilly offers sweetener as he begins plan to dismantle HSE

Minister for Health James Reilly
Minister for Health James Reilly

Fionnan Sheahan, Eilish O'Regan and Caroline Crawford

THE creation of a new Patient Safety Agency, being described as a patient champion, will be offered as the sweetener to the €666m cuts in the HSE Service Plan.

The plan, which will be put before the Cabinet today by Health Minister James Reilly, will also begin the dismantling of the HSE.

The minister told the HSE to begin the establishment of the Patient Safety Agency, including the recruitment of a chief executive.

The new agency will operate separately to the standards authority, HIQA, and its exact role has yet to be explained, but it is supposed to act as a patient advocacy body.

Hospital budgets are also expected to be among the main targets for cuts in the health service's 2014 spending plan.

The reforms will emphasise improved work practices within hospital groups that will see more movement of staff between hospitals.

However, these proposals are aspirational and savings figures may not materialise -- leaving the HSE at risk of asking for another substantial bailout again at the end of next year.

"There's going to be a heavy emphasis on reform, continuing reform, building on the reform we've had already," he said.

Meanwhile, the HSE will effectively be asked to manage itself out of existence, to a less centralised model.

The implementation of a new funding model, known as Money Follows The Patient (MFTP), will also be rolled out next year under the plan.

This would see hospitals paid per procedure, rather than getting a block sum of money.

The aim is to incentivise hospitals to treat more patients, cutting waiting lists.

The HSE is currently outsourcing some surgery and outpatient clinic appointments to private hospitals in a bid to bring down public waiting lists.

Dr Reilly declined to give any details on whether the controversial Budget target of saving €130m in checks on medical card eligibility next year would be scaled by back.

He said he would have to discuss the service plan first with his Cabinet colleagues. This figure is expected to be reduced following protests from the HSE that it would not be able to find enough medical card holders, who are ineligible, to generate this level of savings.

He was speaking alongside Jobs Minister Richard Burton at the announcement of 80 new jobs at Slainte Healthcare.

The HSE service plan does not have to be approved by the Cabinet, but it is preferable for Dr Reilly to present it there and get the backing of ministers.

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said: "The situation is that the Budget sets out the figures and the ceilings for each department.

"The HSE then prepare a draft service plan based on those figures. They submit that plan to the Minister for Health, it's his responsibility to assess the draft plan as submitted, to make recommendations for changes to that plan, or not. and it's for him to recommend his acceptance or otherwise of the plan and that's what the minister is doing."


He was speaking at Mayo General Hospital in Castlebar, where he was opening a refurbished renal dialysis unit and turning the sod of a new cystic fibrosis unit

The service plan gives effect to the Budget decision to reduce the income thresholds for the over-70s. It will mean 35,000 older people will lose their full medical cards and get a GP card instead.

The move, which will save €25m, will need to be underpinned by legislation in 2014.

Irish Independent

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