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A total of 184 medical and dental staff contacted the HSE Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) counselling service last year and in the first four months of 2021, according to figures obtained by the Medical Independent (MI). The HSE stated that 143 staff contacted the service in 2020 and 41 between January and April 2021. These figures include calls made to external providers. As the national EAP data collection system was implemented in 2020, standardised data was not available prior to last year. In 2020, the HSE provided additional funding to increase the staffing in the internal EAP service by 40 per cent. A new national EAP phone line with a single point of contact for all services was launched, based on feedback from staff.
The programme moved to a blended model of service delivery, using telehealth solutions as well as face-to-face delivery. There were a number of temporary breaks in face-to-face delivery based on public health and HSE occupational health Covid-19 guidance and direction. “The majority of HSE staff access the internal service because of its in-depth organisational knowledge and understanding of the structures and culture of the HSE,” a spokesperson for the Executive told MI.The HSE also changed to a new external contractor for the service. “The previous Staffcare contract allowed for an EAP external counselling service only and referred to the contact line for this service as the ‘Staffcare helpline’,” according to the spokesperson.
“In fact, this service was always a counselling only contract. There was never any variation in this contract at any stage or point in time in terms of scope. “Inspire won the 2020 contract and consequently operate the current counselling only external partner service. It is identical in operation to the Staffcare contract, where each caller is spoken with and triaged to help them access the external counselling service.” In December 2020, the HSE launched a national EAP awareness campaign that “has successfully increased usage rates, helped to normalise the seeking of psychological support, and improved staff understanding of all the EAP services including counselling”, according to the spokesperson. The HSE EAP can be reached at 0818 327 327. For further information, visit https://healthservice.hse.ie/staff/benefits-services/benefits/counselling.html