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Minister Harris publishes Sláintecare Implementation Strategy marking important milestone towards delivering health reform

The Minister for Health, Simon Harris, today published the Sláintecare Implementation Strategy.

This marks the latest in a series of important milestones towards delivering a programme of health reform arising from the Sláintecare report.

Minister Harris said

The Sláintecare Report sets out a vision for the future of healthcare over a ten-year period. Since the report was published, the Government has been moving forward on a number of fronts, in order to translate this vision into reality. We are committed to achieving this transformation, which will require investment, strengthened governance and accountability, and a coherent programme of reform.

Earlier this year, the Government provided for significant investment in new capacity and redevelopment across the health service in the National Development Plan. This will enable the expansion of capacity across the community and acute hospital sectors and will also provide for the development of new elective-only facilities – a key Sláintecare recommendation. This investment programme will be a key catalyst for reform.

At the same time, the Government has prioritised better governance and management of the HSE including the establishment of a HSE Board. The recent publication of the Health Service Executive (Governance) Bill 2018 marks another important step in this process. The position of Chair and post of Director General (CEO-designate) for the HSE have also recently been advertised through the Public Appointments Service; these will be pivotal appointments in improving the management and performance of the health service.

The Sláintecare Implementation Strategy, which I am publishing today, provides the framework within which a system-wide reform programme will be advanced. It is a further step in the detailed implementation process for this programme and sets out four over-arching goals and ten high-level strategic actions which will be the key focus for the first three years of the reform programme. At its core, the strategy focuses on establishing the building blocks for a significant shift in the way in which health services are delivered in Ireland.”

Key actions in the first three years of reform include:

  • Establish HSE Board and reconfigure the HSE to improve accountability and support integrated care 
  • Deliver a new Model of Healthcare through the development of a new Citizen Care Masterplan for the health service and new models of care that are population-health centred 
  • Launch a programme of public engagement on Health Outcomes and a nationwide series of events in 2019/2020 to promote health and well-being 
  • Enhance Community Care, including the expansion of community-based diagnostics facilities, a new community nursing service and a continued programme of investment in primary care centres 
  • Reform the GP contract, including providing for a greater role in chronic disease management 
  • Continue investment in community mental health services 
  • Introduce a new statutory scheme for homecare services 
  • Review the eligibility framework to develop a roadmap to achieve universal entitlement 
  • Increase bed capacity in public hospitals 
  • Choose locations and commence the planning process for new elective hospitals in Cork, Dublin and Galway 
  • Tackle long waiting times for acute hospitals by continued investment in the NTPF and the development of an integrated waiting list management system 
  • Develop a national clinical strategy and hospital group strategic plans to guide organisation of hospital services 
  • Roll out eHealth systems and infrastructure 

Dedicated implementation structures are being established to support the reform programme. Earlier this month, it was announced that the new Sláintecare Programme Office will be led by Ms Laura Magahy and a Sláintecare Advisory Council will be put in place, chaired by Dr Tom Keane. The Sláintecare Implementation Strategy lays out the full set of robust governance structures that are being put in place to ensure successful delivery of reform.

In recognition of the central role of the Programme Office, the Executive Director of the Sláintecare Programme Office will be tasked with refining the Implementation Strategy into a more detailed Action Plan within three months of taking office. This will include a review of the actions and associated timeframes, the development of detailed milestones and timelines for year one and the assignment of responsibility for each action.

An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said,

We know that our health and social care services as currently designed cannot meet the growing demands being placed on them. Our population is changing rapidly, bringing with it changing healthcare needs. There is overwhelming consensus that a transformation is needed in the way we deliver care and that this must be planned, managed and delivered within a coherent system wide reform programme.

The publication of the Sláintecare Implementation Strategy today signals the Government’s intention to deliver a transformational reform of the health system over the next decade. It provides the framework for a significant programme of change and improvement to achieve the long term vision as set out in the Sláintecare report.

Minister Harris said,

The Implementation Strategy being published today outlines a sustainable programme of reform for the coming years. It is firmly rooted in the vision and underpinning principles of the Sláintecare report. The reform programme reaches right across all health services, and will be complex. These changes won’t happen overnight, and it is essential to get the sequencing of reform right to minimise interference with ongoing service delivery and to put in place the necessary enablers and building blocks for reform including infrastructure and supports for the health workforce.

Earlier this month, we made two key appointments to lead this reform programme. Today, we are publishing the strategy that will guide implementation over the coming three years. These represent key foundations for taking this reform programme forward.

Engagement of the health workforce and the public will be a priority throughout the reform process and the development of an engagement strategy will be one of the first actions undertaken by the Programme Office. Success will depend on a broad coalition - spanning politicians, all health service professionals and staff, patients and the public - to unite behind this plan. I look forward to working with the many stakeholders to deliver it and to engagement starting in the coming weeks.

Laura Magahy, new Director of the Sláintecare Programme Office said,

I welcome the mandate which the Government’s agreement has given to driving forward the Implementation Strategy for Sláintecare. I look forward to commencing the work of developing it into a detailed Action Plan, working with service users and service providers, in order to confirm the status, sequencing, responsibility, and resourcing of all the Actions, when I take up my position in September.

Dr Tom Keane, Chairperson of the Sláintecare Advisory Council said,

Similar to other countries, the Irish health system needs to radically change if it is to properly meet the health needs of the population. Strong leadership, clear governance and effective engagement of stakeholders across the health sector will be essential to successful reform, as will a long-term vision for health policy that remains constant from government to government – that is what Sláintecare represents.