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HSE's 2014 acute cuts criticised as "unsustainable"

The plan sets out a target of having 95 per cent of all people at Emergency Departments discharged or admitted within six hours of registration.

Image: Hospital ward via Shutterstock

THE HSE HAS released its Acute Division Plan for 2014, which shows that the acute hospitals have a budget of €3.7billion.

The document shows that acute hospitals will be required in 2014 to meet the full value of cost containment plans, amounting to €5om.

Work will also be done on developing an “effective approach” to non-consultant hospital doctor (NCHD) recruitment, “to ensure a more sustainable focus on NCHD numbers into the future”.

In addition, it will further roll out its graduate nurse employment programme that was initiated in 2013, involving the recruitment of up to 1,000 nurses on two-year contracts.

Last year’s programme was criticised by the INMO, which called on graduate nurses to boycott it.

There will be a particular focus on achieving full compliance with the European Working Time Directive amongst NCHDs by the end of 2014.

Targets

A 2014 Haddington Road Agreement target of €60m and a reconfiguration target of €7.5m have also been applied.

The HSE said that provision for an additional €50m for acute hospitals has been made in 2014, in order to meet the full year costs of the demand for services in 2013.

There will be a target of saving €7.5m for reconfiguration and reorganisation plans for 2014.

€80m in relation to Haddington Road will be held centrally by the HSE and will be allocated to individual services.

Priorities

The document also sets out the key priorities for 2014, including ensuring patient safety and quality in acute hospital.

It sets out a target of having 95 per cent of all attendees at Emergency Departments discharged or admitted within six hours of registration, with 100 per cent discharged or admitted within 9 hours.

The plan notes that the National Cancer Registry of Ireland (NCRI) predicts that a total of 22,360 people will be treated for cancer in 2014, and on average 80 per cent of these people will be treated in the public system.

The Acute Hospital Division also has an allocation of €7.7m for “demographic pressures” and €38.4m for the “maintenance and expansion of critical services”.

Budgets

This table sets out the budget for a number of acute hospitals:

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The employment ceiling in the acute services is expected to decrease to 46,612 in December 2014. The HSE said that the continuing reduction in employment in 2014 will be pursued through natural turnover (ie retirements and resignations) and other targeted measures.

There will be an additional 40 posts made available in 2014.

Hospitals will be required to deliver on cost containment plans as well as improvements in income collection in 2014.

Criticism

Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD described the plans as “unsustainable”.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said “the bottom line is that these plans implement the cuts of at least €619 million imposed by the Government’s 2014 Budget and the HSE Service Plan”.

“Already struggling acute hospitals face an average reduction of 4 per cent in their funding,” said Ó Caoláin.

He described the target to reduce the delayed discharge of patients from acute hospitals by 4 per cent as “an example of how unrealistic these plans are”.

Read: Health Minister calls for report into the death of babies at Portlaoise hospital>

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