Harney refuses to give exact figure on HSE cuts

Seven days ago at the ESRI conference on resource allocation in the health sector, Mary Harney said that the HSE is facing cuts 'between €600,000 and one billion'.

I asked Mary Harney would the cuts be higher than €600,000, she said she did not want to speculate, but €600,000 would certainly be a minimum figure. I asked will it be up to one billion – she said 'I am not certain it will be that high, it will be somewhere between €600k and one billion'. She went on to say 'I want to make it clear, it is not going to be easy, no easy way to take that sort of money out, even if you are talking about €600k.... it's very challenging".

The Minister went on to explain that it was particularly challenging 'due to the Croke Park Agreement as 70% of the health budget goes on staffing' and the Agreement ensures no pay cuts. However, the ESRI has produced different figures. In the very detailed analysis that the ESRI has done as back-up for the Resource Allocation Working Group, they found that pay accounts for just 50% of the health budget (although that might included the pay or non-pay aspects of schemes like the General Medical Schemes).

According to the ESRI, in areas like hospital staffing costs are 70% but in other areas such as community services it only takes up 35% of the budget. That is very significant as it means that there is 20% more room for scope to find those cuts, so it may be good news as it allows for a bit more flexibility.

On 28 October 2010, I'll do my fantasy health budget where I'll detail where cuts can be made without impacting on front line services.