Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Questions (85)

Richard Boyd Barrett


85. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Health his plans to deal with the outstanding issues with regard to pay and conditions across the health service in order that the shortages of staff can be addressed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27849/19]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

Staff employed in the public health service are in receipt of a series of pay increases under the Public Service Stability Agreement.  This will see public servants receiving an average 7% increase in their salary over the lifetime of the Agreement.  By the end of 2020, the commitment is there to restore 90% of the pay reductions experienced under the FEMPI legislation.  Public health sector employees also benefit from a pension which is highly valuable to the employee as well as other benefits such as flexible working, sick-leave and maternity leave. 

In terms of recruitment to and retention of health service grades, the Public Service Pay Commission is continuing its work on assessing roles in the public service which have been identified as experiencing recruitment and retention issues.  The Commission has already made recommendations in relation to nurses, consultants and NCHDs and the Government has accepted these findings.

Given its analysis, the Commission proposed that the parties to the Public Service Stability Agreement jointly consider what further measures could be taken over time to address the pay differential between serving and new entrant consultants. The next step is to engage with the representative organisations of consultants. However, brokering an affordable solution will be a significant challenge, in particular within the context of budgetary pressures and broader public sector policy. While pay has a significant impact in recruitment and retention of consultants, a number of other factors are also important, including, inter alia, opportunities for career development, training opportunities and location. The Commission stated it was strongly supportive of the full implementation of the recommendations of the Strategic Review of Medical Training and Career Structures, the 'MacCraith' recommendations.

Concerning Nurses, the recent nursing agreement and the new Enhanced Practice Nurse/Midwife contract will see the financial position of nurses and midwives improve and should help to both recruit and retain nurses in the public health service. In relation to pay, the new Enhanced Practice Nurse and Midwife contract will deliver salary improvements for those that migrate to this new role ranging from between 2% - 11%. The Enhanced Nurse/Midwife Practice salary scale ranges between €35,806 to €47,201. The agreement will see improvements to a range of allowances, their extension to additional nurses and midwives, and a new allowance for those in medical surgical wards up to the maximum full year cost of €10m. It also includes a commitment to increase the number of Advanced Nurse Practitioners to a minimum of 2% of the nursing workforce. The HSE is currently working on a plan to deliver the implementation of the agreement.

Finally,  in relation to the industrial action which took place on 26 June 2019 by SIPTU support staff grades, I was pleased that talks between the parties resumed at the Workplace Relations Commission last Thursday.  While some progress was made, it was not possible to reach agreement on all issues.  As a result, the matter has now been referred to the Labour Court for an hearing on Wednesday, 3 July 2019.