Opportunity to provide high quality and timely access to hospital care for public patients missed in Budget 2020

Health Budget 2020 is misdirected and fails to adequately provide for the task of reducing the record number of acutely ill inpatients being treated on trolleys. It does not resource our public hospital and mental health services to provide timely high quality care to the one million or so people on waiting lists, according to the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA).

Characterised by IHCA President Dr. Donal O’Hanlon as a ‘missed opportunity’ for patients and those who depend on public hospitals for essential care. Hospital consultants have expressed their disappointment in the Government’s failure to include essential provisions in the Budget to reduce patient waiting lists. The consultant recruitment and retention crisis is driving the numbers waiting to ever increasing levels.

The IHCA in its pre-Budget Submission, outlined the grave capacity deficits that are undermining the basic fabric of our acute hospital and mental health services impacting the ability to deliver timely quality care to those who need it.

The Association has outlined that it is of paramount importance that, firstly, a significantly increased number of permanent consultants need to be appointed to fill the large number of vacancies. Secondly, the additional 2,600 acute beds promised in the 2018 National Development Plan (NDP) must be provided more urgently in contrast with delaying the bed expansion towards the end of the 10-year NDP period.

The allocation of €700 million in additional funding in total, across all health services, is on the surface welcome but it does not provide adequately for the above significant investment in public hospital services.

Budget 2020 also does not include an allocation to restore pay parity for consultants appointed after October 2012. This inequality is the fundamental cause of the current consultant recruitment and retention crisis, which is increasing waiting lists to record levels.

Today’s budget allocation for health includes €25 million in additional funding for the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF). However, according to the IHCA this allocation amounts to an outsourcing of public health care to the private sector, at a time when our public hospitals desperately need increased funding.

In addition to the shortage of consultants, the existing deficits in inpatient and day-case beds is a huge constraint in the effective delivery of timely care across our public hospitals. Budget 2020 does not contain any additional measures to accelerate the delivery of those promised extra hospital beds.

According to IHCA President Dr. Donal O’Hanlon:

Budget 2020 is a missed opportunity to end the misery for patients across the country. Our acute public hospital services are facing into an extremely challenging winter, yet incredibly this Budget contains very few sustainable initiatives to address those challenges.

“There are no funding commitments to accelerate the roll out of extra hospital beds, or to fill the 500 unfilled permanent consultant posts. There are no sustainable measures to help the one million people waiting to access care in our public hospitals.

“The decision to allocate an additional €25 million to the National Treatment Purchase Fund, which previous experience has shown, is a short-term measure which does not solve the long-term hospital access problems facing public patients.

“This money should be used to properly resource our public hospitals. Our health system is in crisis, and this sticking plaster is not the answer”.

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