Privatisation: Proposed use of National Treatment Purchase Fund

Fórsa delegates at the union’s Health and Welfare conference in Galway have backed an emergency motion objecting to a proposal by the Minister of State at the Department of Health on the use of the National Treatment Purchase Fund for private psychological assessments and therapies.

Tabling the motion on behalf of the union’s executive, Fórsa national secretary Linda Kelly said yesterday’s Dáil debate, on the ongoing crisis within children’s and young people disability services, had positively addressed a number of issues, but that an ultimatum raised by Minister Anne Rabbitte potentially put children and young people at risk.

Ms Kelly said: “The minister proposed that either the HSE address and resolve these issues by August or else she would sanction the use of the National Treatment Purchase Fund so that families could buy in assessments and therapies from private providers.

“At best, the ultimatum is disingenuous, but at worst it’s entirely hazardous.

“Statutory registration for psychologists has not yet been established which means the term ‘psychologist’ is currently not a protected title, and so the current situation is open to exploitative practices.

“The broadcast of the RTÉ Investigates programme in early March revealed the problems that surface when an individual can describe themselves a psychologist and take the hard-earned cash of families to deliver sub-par assessments, with no assurance that a practitioner is even qualified to complete them at all.

“The Minister’s proposal risks driving more staff from public service jobs into private sector provision, continuing a downward spiral of diminishing resources and services, in an area where there are already 700 vacant posts.

“Those who will suffer the most are those that need the service most. What we need is for the minister and the HSE to listen to staff and to take their concerns seriously and deliver timely responses. We know there are issues with clinical governance and service delivery. All of the answers to these issues are within the power of the HSE and the minister to address if they actually want to solve the problem.

“The Taoiseach says he has no ideological opposition to paying private practitioners in this context, but it represents a real attack on the provision of public services by our members. Fórsa will defend public services, and ensure they’re delivered by publicly employed professionals.

“The Dáil debate yesterday called for a workforce plan, increased accountability from the HSE in regard disability services, improvements in social protection payments, pay parity for staff in community and voluntary organisations and a national autism strategy. These are all essential and welcome suggestions.

“Fórsa will seek an immediate engagement with Minister Rabbitte and will vigorously oppose any attempt to outsource our members’ work. We will also continue to promote and protect the provision of publicly funded disability services for children and young people,” she said.

There’s never been a better time to join a union, and it’s never been easier. Join Fórsa today.