January 11, 2012

                  Report: Jobs freeze could cripple HSE

by Jennifer Hough

THE staffing crisis which has been seriously hampering the delivery of mental health services could cripple the wider health services early next year, it has been warned.

The effect of the recruit- ment freeze is beginning to seriously impact all grades of staff across the service — even those which had been exempted from the ban — and proposals to offset costs of agency staff to fill the gaps would require a change in government policy, according to docu- ments obtained under the Freedom of Information (Pol) Act.

"Across the spectrum, people will be leaving the services and the crisis hitting the mental health services is going to be across the board," said a senior source within the HSE.

"There is going to be aserious stampede out of theservices and there is a crisislooming early in the newyear because of the morato-rium.

"At the moment it's inmental health, but this couldbe any sector, and what'sgoing on in mental health isdemonstrating what couldhappen in any area of thehealth services." Fol documents reveal therecruitment freeze meansmillions are being paid outin agency staff and overtimewhen recruiting staff wouldbe more cost effective.

Responding to proposalsby the head of mentalhealth services in the HSE,HR assistant national direc-tor Frank O'Leary wrote:"While nursing overtimeexpenditure is down, ithas been offset by increasedreliance on agency nursing.

Proposals to reduces costand use of agency and over-time requires a change ingovernment policy on pub-5c service numbers. Presentpolicy is a barrier to suchproposals." As part of monthly com-mitments under the EU/IMF deal, the HSE mustprovide a headline employ-ment figure to the Depart-ments of Finance andHealth to ensure compli-ance with the employmentcontrol framework.

In his end of Augustreport to HSE boss CathalMagee, Mr O'Leary warned"the recruitment pausehas impacted on exemptedgrades where reductionswere seen for the first timeacross all of these grades".

Exempted grades includespeech and language andoccupational therapists; psy-chologists; social workers;and medical consultants. Hesaid the health sector was1,491 posts "below ceiling"or target reductions. Of 300social workers to be hiredover three years, only 21%had been, while just 18 of230 psychologists and coun-sellors had been hired.

Mr O'Leary reported allstaff categories other thandental/medical decreased inAugust, and that employ-ment levels in managementand administration areaswere below levels recordedat the establishment of theHSE in 2005, Nursing was reportedto be 1,926 posts belowlevels at the end of 2008, At the end of August104,511 people were work-ing across the HSE and vol-untary bodies. The targetunder the employment con-trol framework is to reducethat to 100,861 by 2014.