A clear governance and accountability framework was identified as a key building block of Sláintecare by the Committee on the Future of Healthcare. As part of its recommendations in this area, the Committee called for the HSE to become a more strategic and patient-focused "national centre" carrying out national level functions, and the establishment of regional bodies with responsibility for the planning and delivery of integrated care at a regional level.
As the Deputy will be aware, nine Community Healthcare Organisations (CHOs) and six Hospital Groups are in place on an administrative basis to plan and deliver community and acute care services respectively. While significant progress has been made by these structures, 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.
As a first step in this process, I announced the areas for six new regional bodies last week. This is an important step in signalling the future shape of the health service.
In line with the Sláintecare Report, there will be no disruption to Community Healthcare Networks, Primary Care Teams, GPs etc. The same hospitals will continue to serve the West/Northwest region.
There will be no negative impact on service delivery; patients will continue to receive their services where they currently do and patient choice will not be limited to their region. As the current proposal is very much designed around current patient/service user usage patterns, I do not foresee any negative impact for patients. This includes access to cross-border services.
However, there will be positive impacts over time. The six health regions will ensure that services are more joined up as well as locally planned and delivered. This will make it easier for citizens to access services; it will make services easier to navigate; and it will ensure that more services are available closer to home. They will also, in time, provide a basis for equitable funding of services throughout the country. This will aid the management of the health budget.
While the regions will have devolved responsibility for decision making, they will operate within a national framework, including national policies and strategies, such as the National Trauma Strategy and the National Cancer Strategy and national organisation of certain services such as national clinical programmes, our screening programmes and ambulance services.
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 timelines for the implementation of this reform), and bring these proposals back to Government for approval next year.