Thursday, 30 May 2013

Questions (277)

Denis Naughten


277. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health his views on whether there are adequate nursing staff employed within acute psychiatric facilities across the country; the vacancies which currently exist; the steps he is taking, if any, to ensure the safety of staff employed in such facilities where there may be staff shortages; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26342/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

The HSE National Service Plan sets out the quantum and type of health services to be provided in 2013 within the overall level of funding provided. Subject to overall parameters set by Government, the HSE has the responsibility for determining the composition of its staffing complement, including nursing. The Government has decided that the numbers employed across the public service must be reduced in order to meet its fiscal and budgetary targets. The health sector must make its contribution to that reduction. This policy requires that by the end of 2013, the health service achieves a workforce of 98,955 whole time equivalents (WTEs).

The Croke Park Agreement has been crucial to the health service’s ability to manage through the very difficult circumstances of recent years. The flexibility and adaptability shown by staff has meant that even with reducing staff numbers, service levels have largely been maintained. Where critical service needs are concerned, limited recruitment of key staff has taken place.

The Deputy will be aware that there has been significant investment in mental health services in both 2012 and 2013 with an additional €35 million provided in each of these years. While this funding was provided primarily to enhance community mental health services in line with A Vision for Change, the HSE, in 2012, converted 31 of the posts originally intended for community mental health teams in the Dublin Mid-Leinster region to nursing posts in acute in-patient mental health services in the same region. Some of the funding provided in 2013 will be used to fund nursing posts in Emergency Departments to implement the Clinical Programme in Self Harm.

Issues relating to quality and safety of all services, including mental health services are kept under regular review by the Department of Health and the HSE and as an employer the HSE is committed to ensuring that appropriate systems, processes and resources are in place to ensure the safety, health and welfare of staff, particularly those staff affected by their activities at work.

The specific details asked by the Deputy in the question are operational matters for the HSE. Accordingly, I have asked the HSE to reply directly to the Deputy.