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HSE warns it will need extra funding this year

The Health Service Executive has warned in its National Service Plan that it will require extra funding this year and it has outlined plans to cut spending on agency staff.

The HSE has been allocated a budget of €23.5 billion for 2024, which represents an increase of 4.6% on last year’s funding.

The plan, published today, sets out the priorities for the provision of health and social care services in the year ahead.

It notes that since the start of 2020, staffing levels have increased by 20%, which it said “is the equivalent of around 24,000 extra full-time staff, with about 7,000 of these extra staff arriving in 2023.”

However, the Chairperson of the HSE Board said “despite this welcome investment,” the cost of running the existing services at current levels over the next twelve months “will be a significant challenge” and “likely to exceed the 2024 funding allocation.”

Ciarán Devane said it means the HSE “will likely require supplementary funding support” during the year in the context of demand for care continuing to rise.

Despite the warning the HSE said there are no plans to reduce services being provided.

Mr Devane said: “it is not intended to cut services in 2024, so in financial management terms we will seek to minimise any deficit that might arise should financial risks materialise.”

As part of the efforts to address health spending, the HSE has set a target to reduce the hours of agency staff use by around a third.

The move would equate to savings of €250 million this year.

It said the move will require an increase in productivity, through increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of services, in order to maintain current service levels.

The plan also aims to reduce the reliance on agency workers for overtime by €80 million this year, through the conversion of such staff to full-time employees.

In the NSP, the HSE said: “this level of reduction in agency staffing hours is the equivalent of 3,000 – 4,000 full time staff and will be a challenge for services.”

“It needs, however, to be looked at in the context of the over 24,000 more directly employed staff that are working in our health services today, compared to the start of 2020,” it added.

The Chief Executive of the HSE said it was important to state that “these controls do not mean there will be no recruitment in 2024.”

Bernard Gloster said more than 2,200 additional staff are provided for in 2024, however, he said “it is fair to say that 2024 will be a year of consolidation, smaller growth and better control.”

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