Dáil Éireann - Volume 610 - 22 November, 2005

Written Answers. - Health Service Staff.

  92. Mr. Coveney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of staff that have been recruited under the 2001 primary care strategy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35375/05]

  Ms Harney: Employment information is collected by my Department every quarter on the basis of grade and employing agency and does not include any data on a programme by programme basis as requested by the Deputy. The latest available verified data is in respect of end-June 2005, when employment levels stood at 100,934 personnel in whole-time equivalent terms. The Deputy may wish to note that, since end-2001 there has been an increase in the level of employment in the health services generally of 10,632, or 11.8%, excluding home helps.

The implementation of the primary care strategy is first and foremost about developing new ways of working and of reorganising the resources already in the system in line with the [1214] service model described in the strategy. It is in that context that additional staffing resources can be deployed to best effect. The whole-system nature of the approach to implementation is such that change will be required in many sectors in the health service, and not solely within primary care itself. It is therefore neither feasible nor appropriate to attribute particular appointments to the primary care strategy.

To support the continued development of primary care services in line with the principles of the strategy, the Government is providing an additional €16 million in 2006. Among the developments this funding will permit is the appointment of some 300 additional front-line personnel to work alongside general practitioners in the improved delivery of community primary care services. The additional resources will be invested to ensure that they are focused on meaningful developments with maximum front-line impact.

  93. Ms O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to the review of the ambulance command and control centre in central Dublin which called for the establishment of a joint ambulance control in Dublin staffed by the Dublin fire brigade and Health Service Executive staff if this report has been dismissed; the report which she expects to receive from the Health Service Executive on this matter; the levels of involvement of staff in any report on this subject; the interim measures which are to put in place to ensure that the concerns from the Devine report are addressed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35475/05]

  Ms Harney: The Deputy’s question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive, HSE, under the Health Act 2004. As part of the reform of the health service a national ambulance office has been established under the auspices of the National Hospitals Office within the HSE. The office has responsibility for the provision of pre-hospital emergency care nationally.

Ambulance services in the eastern region are provided by the HSE and Dublin City Council through Dublin fire brigade, DFB. The HSE eastern regional area provides services in Counties Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow, while the DFB largely operates in Dublin city under an arrangement with the executive. The HSE has overall responsibility for the provision of ambulance services and allocates funding annually to Dublin City Council.

In 2004, the former Eastern Regional Health Authority commissioned an external review of an integration agreement relating to the operation of the ambulance command and control centre at Townsend Street, Dublin. The centre is staffed by ambulance personnel from the HSE and the DFB. The review was commissioned arising from [1215] difficulties which had arisen in operating the centre in a fully integrated fashion. The review was conducted by an independent management consultant and was completed earlier this year.

The principal recommendation arising from the review was that discussions should take place at senior management level between Dublin City Council and the Health Service Executive. Among the issues recommended for consideration were: the need to establish a fully integrated joint ambulance control based in Townsend Street, staffed jointly by the HSE and DFB; the need to ensure that previously agreed protocols on the dispatch of emergency ambulance services are implemented and monitored; and the need for a single information and communication technology system to be introduced for the dispatch of emergency ambulances.

The review further recommended that, in the absence of agreement to the resolution of difficulties which have arisen in the operation of a fully integrated centre, the HSE should commission a risk management audit to assess the risks to patients arising from a continuation of the existing arrangements at Townsend Street.

My Department is advised that the National Hospitals Office and Dublin City Council have met to discuss the implications of the report and have recently established a senior management group as recommended. The executive has advised that the findings of the external review will be considered, in conjunction with other relevant reports, by the senior management group. The executive has further advised that ambulance personnel will be given the opportunity to make submissions to the group in advance of any recommendations being finalised and that they will also be asked to participate in the development of any implementation plans resulting from the work of the group.

I hope any difficulties which have arisen in delivering a fully integrated response by the ambulance service in the eastern region can be resolved quickly by the HSE in conjunction with Dublin City Council and other relevant parties. I also consider that risk management-audit should form an integral part of any future arrangements governing the provision of ambulance services both in the eastern region and nationally. I will continue to seek reassurance from the HSE that any current difficulties are not compromising in any way the provision of a timely and quality response by the ambulance service to persons in the eastern region.