19. Deputy Louise O’Reilly asked the Minister for Health the reason primary care centres (details supplied) will not be provided with additional new staff hires; the way in which these centres will now be staffed; if staff will be taken from the surrounding areas; if this will reduce services beyond the remit of the primary care centre; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 6367/18 asked on 08 Feb 2018)

Minister for Health (Deputy Simon Harris): The shift of healthcare delivery towards primary care remains a key priority for the Government and, indeed, is one of the key features of Sláintecare. Primary care centres facilitate the shift from acute care to primary care because of the range of multi-disciplinary services they can provide and the role they can play in keeping people out of the acute hospital setting.

I understand that, prior to the construction or procurement of any new primary care centre, extensive dialogue takes place between HSE Estates and HSE local management to ensure that provisions are made in new centres for current and future staff. Furthermore, new centres will be capable of facilitating additional new staff that may be required as the plans for further shifts of activity to primary care are implemented.

The HSE has advised that both existing and newly recruited staff will be accommodated in the new primary care centres and services will continue to be provided to the geographical area of the Primary Care Teams and Networks.

It is important to note that in recent years, funding has been provided to recruit additional staff for the provision of primary care services. In 2016 funding of €4m was provided for the recruitment of up to 83 additional full-time speech and language therapy posts, almost all of which are now in place. Funding of €5m was also provided in 2016 for the recruitment of 114 assistant psychology posts and 20 staff grade psychology posts, the process for which is ongoing. More recently, in Budget 2018 funding was secured for the provision of additional occupational therapy posts.