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The impact of austerity on the health workforce and the achievement of human resources for health policies in Ireland (2008–2014)
Williams, Des; Thomas, Steve
Abstract Background The global economic crisis saw recessionary conditions in most EU countries. Ireland’s severe recession produced pro-cyclical health spending cuts. Yet, human resources for health (HRH) are the most critical of inputs into a health system and an important economic driver. The aim of this article is to evaluate how the Irish health system coped with austerity in relation to HRH and whether austerity allowed and/or facilitated the implementation of HRH policy. Methods The authors employed a quantitative longitudinal trend analysis over the period 2008 to 2014 with Health Service Executive (HSE) staff database as the principal source. For the purpose of this study, heath service employment is defined as directly employed whole-time equivalent public service staffing in the HSE and other government agencies. The authors also examined the heath sector pay bill and sought to establish linkages between the main staff database and pay expenditure, as given in the HSE Annual Accounts and Financial Statements (AFS), and key HRH policies. Results The actual cut in total whole-time equivalent (WTE) of directly employed health services human resources over the period 2008 to 2014 was 8027 WTE, a reduction of 7.2% but substantially less than government claims. There was a degree of relative protection for frontline staffing decreasing by 2.9% between 2008 and 2014 and far less than the 18.5% reduction in other staff. Staff exempted from the general moratorium also increased by a combined 12.6%. Counter to stated policy, the decline in staffing of non-acute care was over double than in acute care. Further, the reduction in directly employed staff was to a great extent matched by a marked increase in agency spending. Conclusions The cuts forced substantial HRH reductions and yet there was some success in pursuing policy goals, such as increasing the frontline workforce while reducing support staff and protection of some cadres. Nevertheless, other policies failed such as moving staff away from acute settings and the claimed financial savings were substantially offset by overtime payments and the need to hire more expensive agency workers. There was also substantial demotivation of staff as a consequence of the changes.
Keyword(s): HEALTH POLICY; HEALTH ECONOMICS
Publication Date:
2017
Type: Other
Peer-Reviewed: Unknown
Language(s): English
Institution: Lenus
First Indexed: 2017-10-03 07:31:02 Last Updated: 2018-03-13 06:50:31