Over 2,000 staff to be recruited to Community Health Networks


Over 2,000 staff, with a particular focus on nursing and community therapists such as physios, psychologists, occupational therapists and speech and language therapists will be recruited to Community Health Networks as part of the Enhanced Community Care (ECC) Programme, Ms Mary Butler, Minister of State, Department of Health with special responsibility for Mental Health and Older People, said when she gave the opening address to the Conference.

Mary Butler
Mary Butler

A reformed model of service delivery would also be introduced that would ensure the provision of home support in a transparent, equitable manner, based on a standard assessment of care needs.

The Minister said she was delighted to be at the conference and would like to sincerely thank HMI for the kind invitation to give an opening address, which was both a privilege and an honour.

The Conference would be exploring issues around integrated care and enhanced care in the community. For many years now we had talked about the need to reduce our over-dependence on acute hospitals by investing in community-based services. This year we were in a position to further advance that ambition in respect of services for older people, and services for people with chronic illnesses such as diabetes, respiratory illness and cardiac illnesses.

A total of €150 million in new development money, plus additional Sláintecare funding had been allocated under Budget 2021 to support the rollout of the Enhanced Community Care (ECC) programme.

“This level of investment in primary care reform is unprecedented and is intended to address historical capacity deficits in the sector, improving access to health services within the community. It forms part of wider efforts to deliver on Sláintecare and the promise of care being delivered in the right place, at the right time and as close to home as possible.

“There are clear commitments set out in the National Service Plan 2021 to commence the operation of community specialist teams in line with the ECC Programme. Community Health Networks and community specialist teams for older people and chronic disease will work in an integrated way with the National Ambulance Service (NAS) and acute services to deliver end to end care, keeping people out of hospital as much as  possible, enabling a home first approach, and ensuring people are discharged from hospital without delay.”

The Minister said the investment in CHNs together with wider reform and policy initiatives to support integrated community care services would no doubt substantially improve access to services at the most appropriate level.

“Implementing Enhanced Community Care would require managers from the health services to work across boundaries in ways that they hadn’t before and in ways that made the most sense for people who used our health services.”

She said a prime example of reform in health and social care service delivery was home support. Extensive work was ongoing within the Department of Health to develop a system for the financing and regulation of home support services. In addition, a reformed model of service delivery would be introduced that would ensure the provision of home support in a transparent, equitable manner based on a standard assessment of care needs.

“Implementing Enhanced Community Care would require managers from the health services to work across boundaries in ways that they hadn’t before and in ways that made most sense for people who used our health services”.

Significant progress was to be achieved by end of 2021, in line with the Sláíntecare Implementation Report, including a pilot scheme on the InterRAI assessment of need tool and the establishment of a National Office for Home Support. Additional work to progress the Scheme in 2021 would include work on the development of a robust data collection, case-management and IT system and ongoing stakeholder engagement.

“This new model of home support will be critical to enabling older people to remain in their own communities and homes for as long as possible. In the interim, an additional five million home support hours will be provided in 2021.

The Minister said we were are all aware of the access issues that had been a prominent and growing part of our health system. The challenges posed by COVID19 had placed considerable additional pressures on our health services. There was a need to reduce wait times for individuals who required access to scheduled care from our inpatient and outpatient waiting lists. The Access to Care plan, soon to be announced, by Government would outline how the additional investment that was being made this year would be spent to help reduce wait times and generally improve access for people to diagnostics.

“How do we ensure that those who most need care get access to it in a timely way? How do we ensure that we see a further improvement in service in return for the additional monies that are being allocated this year to our health services?

The Minister said that in recognition of the impact of COVID-19 on mental health, the HSE published a Psychosocial Framework earlier this year, building on a range of supports introduced in 2020 in response to COVID. This included the provision of self-help and psychological first aid supports for healthcare staff. The Framework provided a cohesive, coordinated, consistent and collaborative approach to the provision of mental health services and supports across five key levels from mental health promotion to specialist services, during and beyond COVID. While acknowledging the mental health impact of the pandemic across all of society, it also identifieD priority groups, including health care workers.

“As part of the HSE’s Psychosocial response to COVID -19, counselling supports are available to health staff impacted by the pandemic and local support structures are in place in each CHO.

“The Government’s ‘In This Together’ and ‘Keep Well’ campaigns are aimed at supporting health and wellbeing during COVID-19 and may prove helpful for many healthcare workers.  ‘Keep Well’ comprises five main themes, including keeping active, staying connected, switching off, eating well and minding your mood. Under the ‘Minding your Mood’ theme, people are equipped with information on where to go if they need support. The HSE recently launched a series of ‘Minding Your Wellbeing.’ online videos, which provides an opportunity for people to learn more about key elements of mental wellbeing such as mindfulness, gratitude, self-care and resilience.”

“Throughout the last year, we have seen significant advancements in the delivery of health services through the rapid reconfiguration of services and supports. We have also seen the enhancement of existing and new services through the use of digital technologies. This has been very clearly reflected in the area of mental health and has led in many cases to improved access to supports for people from different communities and across all parts of the country. For example, ‘MyMind’ continues to provide free online counselling sessions in 15 different languages to people all over Ireland. This is one of many initiatives established in response to any rise in mental health need due to the pandemic.”

Ms Butler said the HMI had been in existence for over 75 years, and as the professional body for healthcare managers, had a long history of supporting the development of standards in health management across the entire health sector.

“The Access to Care plan, soon to be announced, by Government would outline how the additional investment that was being made this year would be spent to help reduce wait times and generally improve access for people to diagnostics”.

It was fantastic to see this conference taking place, following its postponement in November 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. “While it is unfortunate that we cannot convene in person, this online platform offers a way for us to connect, reflect and discuss the pertinent issues currently facing the health sector,” she said.

“I believe that there are over 350 delegates in attendance today (it was later discovered that over 400 actually participated) and I am delighted to welcome each and every one of you.  We have representatives from our public hospitals and Community Healthcare Organisations, private hospitals and private nursing homes. We also have officials from the Department of Health, from HSE Corporate and from many other parts of the Irish health services, including the industries that support our services. I am also very pleased to welcome representatives from the European Association of Healthcare Managers.

“It is through shared learning at local, national, European and international levels that we can identify and implement best practice in the delivery of health services.”

The Minister said the theme of the conference, “Resilience and Renewal,” provided a significant opportunity for us all to reflect on the challenges and learnings from the past year and to tackle some of the big questions as to how we best move forward.

“I was particularly struck by the forward-looking perspective that you have adopted for your conference. There is a temptation at times like this to focus on what has happened and try to rationalise and understand it. However, learning from the past is only useful if it is applied to questions about how best to move forward. Looking back at what has happened cannot be an end in itself.

“Covid-19 has had an enormous impact on all of society and not least for our health services and frontline healthcare workers who have worked tirelessly in the battle against Covid-19.

“There is no doubt that health professionals have made significant sacrifices in order to keep us all as safe as possible while continuing to operate high-quality health services to the greatest extent possible. I would like to take this opportunity to commend all healthcare staff for their continued hard work and dedication.”

Ms. Butler said people were at the heart of our health services. The context for the conference was of course the global pandemic and how our health services would recover from its effects. However, of critical importance was the strategic direction for the future development and enhancement of our health services. There had never been a time where strong leadership and effective management were needed more across the health system. Leadership was key. So too was mutual support, collaboration and shared learning at local, national and indeed global levels.

“Healthcare managers from all services will play a key role in bringing this programme to life”.

She hoped that the conference would provide a platform to identify not only issues of mutual concern, but potential solutions and a renewed energy for the exciting path ahead. “While we will, no doubt, continue to grapple with the impacts and consequences of COVID-19 for some time, we also have a much broader programme of reform to achieve for our health system. Healthcare managers from all services will play a key role in bringing this programme to life and I can assure you that I will do everything in my power to support you on this journey.”

Mary Butler

Minister of State, Department of Health

Mary Butler is Minister of State at the Department of Health with special responsibility for Mental Health and Older People. She is a TD representing the Waterford Constituency. In the 32nd Dáil, Mary served as Chairperson of the Joint Oireachtas Committee for Business, Enterprise & Innovation and the All-Party Oireachtas Group on Dementia.

She served as a Councillor having won a seat in the 2014 Local elections in the Comeragh area before contesting the 2016 General Election after securing the Fianna Fáil nomination for Waterford. She was the first female Fianna Fáil TD to be elected for the party since 2007. She was re-elected in the 2020 General Election, She was appointed to sit on the Special Oireachtas Committee for Covid-19 response before being appointed a Minister by the Taoiseach in early July.

She has a strong grounding in the retail sector having worked as both an employee and an employer. She successfully ran the family business a grocery shop in Portlaw for 17 years while also continuing her career working in John Martin Jewellers in Waterford City for 10 years.

She is married to Mick, has three children and credits her great family network as crucial support throughout her life.