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Agency costs at the Health Service Executive (HSE) haven risen by +15% to €176.5 million in 2011 from a year ago, the Irish Minister of Health, James Reilly, confirmed. According to him, unit costs for agency staff will increase due to the transposition into Irish law of the Temporary Agency Directive, which came into effect on 5 December 2011.
Last month it emerged that agency workers will receive €2.5 million of retrospective pay from the HSE because of the Temporary Agency Work Act, which brings the European Agency Work Directive into force and ensures equal treatment of temporary staff.
But the HSE has recently pledged to significantly lower the volume of agency staff functions, targeting a reduction of up to 50% in 2012. However, critics are saying this target will be difficult to meet and is unrealistic.
The Irish Times has now revealed that Mr Reilly said in a written response to the Republican Party Fianna Fáil that HSE agency costs have annually risen from €153.3 million to €176.5 million last year. In 2009 this figure stood at only €108.3 million.
The highest increase with 58% is seen in the “other client/patient services” category while costs in the clinical sector were also up by almost 15% from €109.3 million to €125.4 million. But costs in the non-clinical sector decreased from €22.6 million to €17.4 million last year.
Mr Reilly said that agency staff in the health sector are usually used to “meet a short-term service need”, also allowing for greater flexibility. But he said that the rise in agency costs last year was partly due to the fact that agency staff have actually been used for longer-term staffing needs. This comes after the HSE has negotiated new agency contracts to reduce costs.
Andy Pike from the trade union, Impact, criticised the employment of agency staff, which he said was “not a cheap option” and a “false economy.”