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The HSE published its Service Plan for 2012 today after Minister Reilly gave it the green light on Friday. Photocall Ireland

HSE to close 555 nursing home beds and cut hospital budgets

The HSE has outlined how it will save €750 million over the next 12 months.

HOSPITAL BUDGETS WILL be cut by up to 4.4 per cent and 555 nursing home beds closed this year, the Health Service Executive has revealed.

In its National Service Plan for 2012, the HSE outlined how it proposed to trim €750 million from its annual budget.

The plan, published this morning, details how a budget of €13.3 billion will be spent across Ireland’s health and social care services.

The body said that the budget cuts to hospital funding will actually require them to decrease their expenditure by about 7.8 per cent. This will equate to a 6 per cent reduction in service activity.

“The scale of the financial challenge facing the HSE means that there will be an inevitable and unavoidable reduction in services but it will not be a ‘straight line reduction’,” said the Department of Health in a statement.

Disintegrating staff levels

The HSE itself said it faces a large reduction in budgets in 2012 following “several years of delivering more with less money”.

Falling staff numbers is the issue which will most directly impact frontline services, said the HSE.

About 3,200 workers are expected to leave the health service before the end of next month and use of agency staff is to be cut in half. This comes on top of year-on-year staff reductions.

Both of these factors directly impact on service delivery. However, the HSE is working to move to new models of care which will allow us to get more from our reduced budget. Notwithstanding this, it is clear that it will not be possible to deliver all services at the same levels as previous years.”

Minister Reilly called on “greater flexibilities” in work practices and rosters, as well as more redeployment.

The HSE revealed that a minimum of 555 public nursing home beds will close this year. These will mostly come about because of bed closures, and not full unit closures, it said.

On a more positive side, an additional €35m will be invested in mental health services and an extra 400 staff employed. There will also be €20 given to primary care facilities and €15 million to extend free access to GPs.

Other key features of the plan:

  • Despite an expected 3 per cent increase in the incidences of cancer, no additional funding will be supplied;
  • The pay bill will be reduced as 3,200 people will leave the health services by the end of February;
  • €15m allocated for the extension of free GP care to include all those who receive free drugs through the Long Term Illness scheme;
  • Increased income target by €143m which will see more efficient charging of private patients;
  • There will be reductions of 4.5 per cent nationally in the level of home help hours provided to older people;
  • The allocation for disability services has been reduced by 3.7 per cent;
  • Provision has been made for investment of €1m in autism services;
  • Children and family services will see a 4 per cent increase in their allocation and the Children and Family Support Agency set up (separate from the HSE).

HSE chief executive Cathal Magee said that 2012 will be a challenging year for the services.

Minister Reilly added:

The need for radical change in our health services has been apparent since the Celtic Tiger days of excess. The new financial reality in which the health system is operating means that there is a greater need than ever before to drive that change, innovate and implement efficiencies.

Continuing with the status quo was not an option in the time of plenty. Dispensing with the status quo is now in straitened times essential. This plan outlines how the system will adapt in order to minimise reductions in service levels while facing up to financial and reform challenges.”

Reilly approved this plan on Friday after asking HSE executives to redraft it, telling them to be more ambitious. He said he wanted to ensure that a cut in expenditure did not mean an equal cut in service activity.

Read: Fluorescent spray finds tiny signs of oesophageal cancer – UK scientists>

Download the full 2012 HSE National Service Plan here>

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