HUNDREDS of extra doctors and nurses are to be recruited under the HSE’s new service plan.
The blueprint for next year’s spending puts an emphasis on reducing the number of patients on trolleys in accident and emergency departments and reversing reductions in frontline staff.
Enhanced cancer care is also a priority, with plans to hire specialist consultants, including a paediatric radiation oncologist for Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin.
Additional nurses and midwives are to be recruited too.
Health Minister Leo Varadkar and Minister for State with responsibility for mental health services Kathleen Lynch said funding has been marginally increased for the first time in years.
While more than €600m in funding is being pledged for next year, a sizeable chunk of this will be used to deal with the over-run in HSE spending.
After addressing the HSE’s massive debts, the figures show that an additional €115m will be available for spending next year.
The HSE was warned today that the service plan will not solve all the problems in our hospitals.
Among the measures announced are:
• €130m in spending cuts relating to agency staff and procurement.
• Around 200 consultant posts are to be advertised.
• €25m will be allocated to the provision of free GP care to children under six.
• €12m for free GP care for the over-70s.
• €25m to address delayed discharges.
• Disabilities services are to get a €25m boost.
The HSE service plan is the first to be delivered since Mr Varadkar took up the so-called poisoned chalice post.
The document promises to introduce sanctions for under-performing staff in the health sector.
There are also plans to address large-scale absenteeism.
More than 2,000 agency staff are to be removed from the system and replaced with full-time workers.
Some €55m will be earmarked for technology investment, which represents an increase of 37.5pc.
In relation to disability services, it is expected that additional day services will be provided for up to 1,400 young people who are due to leave school and those in rehabilitative training.
Mr Varadkar told reporters today that the service plan will not solve all the problems in the health system.
“The Service Plan acknowledges that after years of reductions there is a modest increase in funding in 2015,” he said.
“It will allow for Programme for Government commitments to be met including extension of BreastCheck and GP Care without fees for the oldest and youngest in society, the under-sixes and over-70s.
“I think it is important to be upfront and honest about this plan. It is based on maintaining the existing level of service plus some targeted improvements.
“We do not have sufficient funds or the right systems in place to solve all of our problems or meet all of our priorities. Moreover, any increase in demand for services next year will inevitably impact adversely on waiting lists.”
In terms of mental health, it has been promised that €35m will be allocated for services in this area next year.
“Some €35m has also been provided for mental health in 2015, bringing to €125m the amount of funding prioritised for mental health since 2012,” said Ms Lynch.
HSE director general Tony O’Brien said the funding will provide additional support to services.
“The National Service Plan 2015 reflects the HSE’s central challenge which will be to operate within the resources made available to it, while delivering existing levels of service, some targeted improvements and continuing the health service reform programme,” he said.