Wednesday, 20 May 2020
Department of Health
I acknowledge that it is critically important for the Irish health service to develop the capability and capacity to project its health and social care workforce requirements to enable more effective and efficient planning.
Work is well underway in relation to implementing the actions stemming from the National Strategic Framework on Health and Social Care Workforce Planning, including cross sectoral engagements between the Health, Children and Education sector. Engagement is also ongoing between my Department, the HSE and the ESRI to build a modern, sustainable, evidence based and fit for purpose projection model. The outcomes from this work, aims to provide the intelligence to support more robust and effective discussions and decisions on health workforce resourcing to meet population health needs into the future.
The implementation of the workforce planning actions link directly with the Slaintecare action to build a sustainable, resilient workforce that is supported and enabled to deliver the Sláintecare vision.
In relation to workforce planning efforts during the current pandemic, there are numerous initiatives taking place to maximise the health workforce to meet the needs of the service during this time. These include increasing the hours of part time staff, rehiring retired clinicians, employment of students and recent graduates, redeployment of staff and encouraging those on career break to return early.
The Be on Call for Ireland initiative is a further means being used to create reserve pools of ‘job ready’ health care professionals’ to use ‘as and when’ they are needed for the response to COVID-19. Those contracted via this initiative are offered a short term contract, which may be reviewed at a later date once the impact of the pandemic on the healthcare system is understood.
Concerning nursing education, between 2017 and 2019 the number of undergraduate training places for nursing and midwifery increased by 260 , from 1,570 to 1,830. I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the first group of these additional students will be due to graduate in 2021 and be in a position to join the nursing and midwifery workforce.
Concerning future nursing pay, the 2019 Nursing Agreement provides for an Expert Review of the Nursing Profession. This Review shall examine those outstanding union claims as detailed in the Labour Court recommendation (LCR21900/21901). Department officials are currently examining how this Review can commence its activities in the current environment and I am looking forward to seeing a date set for this Review in the near future.
Concerning the implementation of the pay measures contained in the Nursing Agreement, in July 2019 the HSE commenced the implementation of those pay measures. The HSE has since issued all circulars to activate these measures including adjustments to allowances and the opening up of the applications process to the new Enhanced Nurse Scale. The HSE has advised that progress has been made in completing the roll out of these measures and many nurses and midwives will have already benefited from these changes. The HSE has also advised that, where it has identified locations where implementation is incomplete, they are working with those locations (including Hospital Groups and CHOs) to complete the process. For the avoidance of doubt, I would like to reassure those nurses and midwives that are due to benefit from this measures that all monies due to them shall be paid to them.
The preliminary data for April indicates that approx. 4,800 / 38% of applicants to the Enhanced Nurse / Midwife role have been appointed in acute operations. Some Hospital Groups have made considerable progress in appointing successful applicants to the new roles (c.50% of successful applicants in two hospital groups and 97% of successful applicants at CHI have been appointed) while at other locations, progress has been slower. My officials have requested the HSE to prioritise the continued implementation of the agreement.
For the latest status on the implementation of these payments, I have referred this matter to the HSE for direct answer and reply.