Primary care recruitment promises delayed

The Department of Health confirmed in November that none of 250 new primary care staff posts promised for this year will be filled. About two-thirds of the promised 414 posts for mental healthcare are likely to be filled by the end of the year.

The primary care and mental health posts were provided for in the HSE service plan in January 2012, with €20 million earmarked in the plan to provide badly needed new staff for primary care teams.

In a further announcement in July, Health Minister James Reilly confirmed that the recruitment of primary care staff would go ahead, and this was made at the same time that the controversial list of 35 primary care centres was published.

IMPACT national secretary Louise O’Donnell said that the lack of progress on the recruitment of primary care teams was yet another example of the Health Minister making commitments and failing to deliver on them. “The question now is will these posts be filled in 2013? A vital opportunity to recruit some of the hundreds of people qualified in therapy grades is being squandered” she said.

Louise explained that each of the primary care centres will require a mix of therapy grades, including occupational, physio and speech and language, and that hundreds are qualifying in these professions each year. “The longer the delays drag on, the greater the risk that these qualified people will emigrate and deploy their skills elsewhere. This could make it harder to recruit in 2013, but the communities who are waiting on their local primary care facilities ultimately lose out. What’s the delay?”

It is not yet clear what will happen in 2013. Louise explained, “While there are clearer indications on the spending on mental health services for next year, there is no information forthcoming in respect of primary care.” Louise has written to the Junior Health Minister, Alex White TD, seeking a meeting to discuss the issue.