Health minister agrees to consultation on health changes

Wednesday 2nd May 2012

Health minister James Reilly has agreed to ongoing consultation with health unions about planned health service reforms, including changed structures following the abolition of the HSE, after he met union officials at the end of last month.

At the meeting, which involved senior officials from IMPACT the INMO, SIPTU and the Irish Medical Organisation, Minister Reilly said he wanted to maintain direct provision of public health services so long as staff and their unions deliver on change and flexibility.

The unions raised a number of issues including the need to share information on the special delivery unit and clinical care programmes. The minister agreed to establish a formal union-management structure to discuss health service changes over the next three to four years. It was also agreed to hold early discussions on proposed revised staff roles, including inter-disciplinary working.

IMPACT national secretary Louise O’Donnell said that the meeting with the minister had been more positive than expected. She said unions now believed they had a basis for constructive engagement on what promises to be another set of major structural reforms in the health service.

The union had earlier said it would work constructively with the Government and health service managers to establish a single-tier health service free at the point of delivery. But it insists that this requires adequate resources, good management, and coordination across hospitals, primary care services and the community and voluntary sector.

“Up to now, the lack of engagement at ministerial level was worrying, with the minister and his officials seeming to lack a formal cohesive strategy on what will follow the planned abolition of the HSE. There has been confusion over the seeming abandonment of existing plans for integrated services and regional structures for acute hospitals and primary care, in favour of hospital trusts and the establishment of seven directorates with responsibility for health service delivery,” said Louise.

IMPACT is organising a symposium on health service reforms for representatives of all the union’s health branches next month. The purpose is to get expert input – including from British unions that have experienced the introduction of ‘health service trusts,’ which Minister Reilly favours – so that the union can develop its strategy to protect staff and services as changes are introduced.