I published the Framework for Smaller Hospitals and the Hospital Groups Report on 14 May 2013. In preparing the Hospital Groups Report, the project group carried out a comprehensive consultation process with all acute hospitals, including those hospitals covered in the Smaller Hospitals Framework, and other key advocacy groups which requested an opportunity to be consulted. In addition, a significant number of submissions were received by the project group.
Implementation of the recommendations of the Hospital Group’s Report has already commenced. I have personally visited the areas covered by each of the six groups with my Department and the Director General Designate of the HSE, explaining the policy objectives and listening to the questions the staff in each of those areas have about this policy implementation. Professor Higgins is also carrying out a debriefing exercise, supported by my Department and the HSE, to help ready the hospitals for the impending changes. Since the launch of the Report, he has held approx. fifty meetings with hospitals in this regard. The ongoing implementation of the Report will be overseen by a National Strategic Advisory Group, which will provide guidance and on-going direction to implementation of both the Hospital Groups Report and the Smaller Hospitals Framework and provide a forum to resolve issues and assist in the development of specific guidelines on the steps required for full implementation. Implementation will be driven by the HSE through the Hospital Groups Implementation team which is currently being established. As the new Hospital Groups are formed and their management teams appointed, each Group will give consideration to the consultation processes appropriate to that individual Group and to how stakeholders may be engaged with those processes.
The implementation of the Framework for Smaller Hospitals has largely been completed around the country and the objective is to complete the remaining necessary changes dependent on required capacity being available in the regions and hospital groups concerned. Hospital groups will be required to submit a strategic plan within one year of establishment which will outline its plans for future services within the group area, including those to be delivered in each smaller hospital. Smaller hospitals will play a crucial role in the delivery of services and when groups are established, services can be exchanged between sites. This will result in the enhancement of activity in smaller hospitals and will allow them to focus on the provision of care that is safe and appropriate.