The Minister for Health will consider “requesting an amended national service plan” as early as this month, depending on progress in relation to HSE recruitment targets, this newspaper has learned.
The HSE National Service Plan (NSP) 2022 was published on 1 March with a target to recruit an additional 5,500-10,000 whole-time equivalent staff this year.
In a letter to HSE Chair Mr Ciarán Devane on 18 February, Minister Stephen Donnelly wrote: “In light of the recruitment challenges identified in the plan, I wish to emphasise that it will be vitally important to monitor progress on the recruitment targets and their impact on the delivery of reform.”
In the letter, seen by the Medical Independent (MI) following a Freedom of Information (FoI) request, the Minister added this monitoring will “allow for the identification of any savings, which we will consider for reallocation against other priorities”.
“Therefore, I wish to request that a review of the NSP be submitted to me in early April encompassing the first quarter of the plan. On receipt of this review, I will consider requesting an amended national service plan pursuant to section 32 of the Health Act (2004) as amended, if progress has not been achieved as expected.”
A review of the NSP for the first quarter of this year “was requested by the Minister to determine the impact of actual and forecasted recruitment on the delivery of reforms set out in the NSP”, a HSE spokesperson confirmed to MI.
“HR data for the first quarter will be available mid- April and it has been agreed that the review will be completed in May.”
Earlier in February, Mr Devane had written to the Minister highlighting the amendments to the NSP that the Minister had requested, including “updated text in relation to the delivery of the recruitment target for 2022”.
In the 10 February letter, also seen by this newspaper through FoI, Mr Devane told the Minister that the HSE is committed to maximising the number of staff recruited in 2022.
“At the same time we acknowledge the unpredictable nature of the labour market during the year,” wrote Mr Devane.
“The HSE will ensure that this key issue is appropriately prioritised, with monthly reports to the board and to the Department, which will provide early warning of recruitment challenges, allowing appropriate remedial action to be taken.”
The NSP outlines the health and social care services that will be provided during the year within the allocated budget of €20.7 billion.
On its publication, Minister Donnelly said: “This is the largest financial allocation ever received by the health and social care services and it comes at a time when we are continuing to deliver reforms and improvements based on the recommendations of the Sláintecare report towards the delivery of universal healthcare.”