Sunday 19 November 2017

Reduction in hospital waiting times among targets in public sector reform

Niall O'Connor, Political Correspondent

A reduction in hospital waiting times and giving parents a greater say in the location of schools are among the targets outlined in the government's new public sector reform plan.

Ministers today pledged to significantly improve services provided by hospitals, State agencies and local authorities as part of an ambitious phase of reform.

Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin said the tranche of reforms will focus on the "delivery of outcomes" and create a public sector we can be proud of.

"The new Reform plan will set the basis for a new Public Service, one that is focused on delivering better outcomes for citizens and business customers; one that is efficient and responsive; and one in which public servants are empowered to meet the challenges and opportunities of the future," Mr Howlin said this morning.

Speaking to RTE Radio 1, Mr Howlin said that the changes are happening "in real-time" and has already seen "service improvements demonstrably in the programme published today."

"We need to control public expenditure," he continued, "and that’s been an absolute priority for government in the last three years as we sought to balance the books."

"But equally important, from the beginning, has been reform; reform of public service delivery, of the civil service itself."

Minister Howlin said that the government has already made "unprecedented reductions".

"There is no country in Europe that has reduced expenditure by almost 18pc in the last few years, or downsized the public service by 30,000 people (10pc); at the same time delivering more services to more people.

Mr Howlin referred to an increase of 600,000 more medical cards and nearly 50,000 more children in schools in his radio interview.

He also said that the "next phase" of reform will involve an increased number of digital platforms, working towards provision for digital by default as a given.

“Public services are extraordinarily complicated as much as they affect every household. They’re delivered by a range of agencies and a range of departments. We have now joined all that up in one common endeavour," he said.

"It’s a new world we are creating for people to be able to deal and access public services more effectively and efficiently as possible."

Among the targets outlined in the report include:

- A rationalisation of State agencies by the end of 2014

- Giving parents a greater say in the type of schools available in communities

- The introduction of post codes by the summer of 2015

- The establishment of a patient safety agency within the structures of the HSE

The plans details a series of reforms in different sectors of the public service.

It places a major emphasise on digital services and the introduction of shares services throughout the public sector.

In the area of health, the plan will see a greater rollout of the public service card which may be extended to a series of new transactions. 

In education, it is aimed to deliver broadband to every secondary school by 2016.

The reform plan also aims to free up more gardai from administrative duties as well as increasing the use of video links in courts.

A number of functions look set to be outsourced to private firms, such as the area of debt collections.

It is hoped that some €500m will be saved over the next three years through better procurement practices.

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