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Reliance on agency staff ‘concerning’ for HIQA

According to meeting minutes, CEO Mr Phelim Quinn said reliance on agency staff was “a risk that HIQA must live with in order to deliver its current and future functions”.

Mr Quinn informed the Board that the increase in non-capital allocation for 2018 from the Department of Health provided for new posts. However, the “process for sanctioning the recruitment to these posts means that recruitment cannot be progressed and hence there is a need for continued reliance on agency to manage its functions”.

This process effectively meant HIQA’s full allocation for 2018 was unlikely to be used, it was noted.

In addition, Mr Quinn advised the Board he had received a letter from the Department reiterating the recommendations of the Public Accounts Committee and seeking assurance that HIQA would reduce its reliance on agency staff.

“The Board expressed its support for the CEO’s approach in respect of the use of agency staff and his commitment to reduce this number as sanction for recruiting new posts was received.”

Mr Quinn stated that a detailed workforce plan had been presented at the Resource Oversight Committee the previous week, but a further update would be provided.

A HIQA spokesperson told the Medical Independent that since the Board meeting in July, it had received approval for eight inspectors of health and social care services; two posts for regulatory support teams; six posts relating to financial management and support services; and three posts for the Health Research Board (HRB) collaboration for clinical effectiveness review teams.

Meanwhile, at its July meeting, the HIQA Board also discussed how the Department had requested the HRB to consider a “variation” to the grant for the HRB Centre for Clinical Effectiveness Reviews (HRB-CICER), hosted by HIQA.

HRB-CICER provides evidence “synthesis” to support national clinical guidelines. The “variation” would require HRB-CICER to take on additional capacity to undertake its work, including systematic review of clinical and cost-effectiveness to inform a number of key policy questions.

The additional work “would require support from resources and skills within the HTA Directorate but could be managed without impacting existing business plan objectives”, stated the minutes.

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