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Ireland’s National Health Service Executive (HSE) spent €215 million on agency workers last year, a -2% fall from 2011, with the majority of the money spent on agency nurses. But the health service has still come under criticism for nearly doubling its agency spends since 2009 when costs totalled €108 million.
A breakdown of the figures shows that most of the money was spent on agency nurses: €82.3 million in 2012, compared to €71.2 million in 2011. Other profession in the healthcare sector also saw increases in agency cost. This includes paramedical staff with the HSE paying €25.2 million to hire agency workers with these skills.
But the health board paid less for agency doctors. This figure fell to €42.5 million in 2012 from €60.7 million a year earlier. Costs to hire agency care assistants also dropped slightly to €54.9 million.
Ireland’s minister of health, James Reilly, last year said that new legislation in form of the Temporary Agency Work Directive would increase agency spend due to equal pay arrangements. But the HSE is committed to cutting costs in the future.
Agency workers in the Irish healthcare sector are mainly used to meet short-term demand although critics insist that hiring agency workers in this sector is more expensive than hiring direct employees.