As the Deputy will be aware, 9 Community Healthcare Organisations (CHOs) and 6 Hospital Groups are currently in place on an administrative basis to plan and deliver community and acute care services respectively.
While significant progress has been made by CHOs and Hospital Groups, there is broad consensus that having separate and un-aligned structures for acute and community care impedes the development of a more integrated health service underpinned by population-based planning, as envisaged under the Sláintecare programme.
The Sláintecare Report called for the establishment of regional bodies based on the alignment of current CHO and Hospital Group structures. What is being proposed under Sláintecare is not simply a reconfiguration of hospital groups, but something much more significant and fundamental. It is the establishment of new health service management structures, which will be tasked with planning, managing and delivering all health and social care services for a given population based on coherent regional areas, on a population health basis. And within these regions, acute hospitals will work with primary, community and social care to provide integrated care.
As a first step in this process, I announced the areas for six new regional bodies in July. Our Lady’s Hospital, Navan will come within the remit of Area A which is depicted on the map in Appendix A. Details of the geographical areas covered by each new regional health area and the hospitals within these areas is also outlined in the appendix. It is important to note that the Mater Hospital is also within the remit of Area A.
The announcement of these areas is an important step in signalling the future shape of the health service. A number of pieces of research, analysis and consultation were undertaken to support the identification of the optimal boundaries of the new regions. This included a review of approaches taken internationally, a review of national policy documents on health reform and previous criteria used in determining regional health bodies, a public consultation process and a detailed analysis of service usage patterns.
As agreed by Government, my Department will now progress the development of detailed policy proposals on reconfiguration of the HSE, including the establishment of regional health bodies, and bring these proposals back to Government for approval next year. This process will provide an opportunity for further consultation and engagement with all key stakeholders to ensure that any structural changes do not unduly cause disruption and loss of focus on service delivery and the roll-out of the broader reform programme, and details of this will be announced in due course.
I would also like to reassure the Deputy that the announcement of future regional areas will not have any immediate impact on services. As the Deputy is aware, Ireland East Hospital Group is engaged in a programme of re-design work to further integrate and enhance the role of Navan Hospital within the current Group and to ensure that it will provide more services safely and appropriately with better linkages to primary, continuing and social care. It is intended that the Hospital Group will continue to engage closely with all interested parties to ensure that the needs of patients, staff, the local and wider community are addressed both in terms of the current Hospital Group configuration and also during the transition to future arrangements.
Regional Health Areas Map