HSE Calls on Psychiatric Nurses to Prioritise Patient Safety during Industrial Action

2nd May 2008



The Health Service Executive (HSE) today called on the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) and SIPTU members to engage with local managers to ensure adequate and safe staffing of mental health facilities.


The PNA and SIPTU commenced a campaign of industrial action on Wednesday 30th April rather than accept a new insurance scheme for nurses injured as a result of an assault at work. The new scheme followed a Labour Court recommendation which the HSE fully accepted.


In some parts of the country, the HSE is not receiving sufficient cooperation from the unions regarding levels of cover and therefore services are being impacted. As a result of this action, the HSE has had to discontinue some day and community services and, in some instances, send clients home.


This issue seems to be particularly acute on the East Coast. In particular, a critical situation currently exists at Naas General Hospital and it has been necessary to suspend admissions to the Lakeview Acute Mental Health Unit.


It has been necessary for the HSE to develop a specific management plan to ensure the safety of the current group of patients. The co-operation of the PNA in achieving this has been requested.


The HSE contingency plans at present include the redeployment of staff from community and day services. Services that are short of nursing staff are being prioritized and covered by the redeployment of nurses from less critical areas. Regrettably, this has resulted in Day Services being cancelled, outings being cancelled and some difficulties being encountered in accompanying patients to acute.


The HSE believes that this dispute is unnecessary and that patients are being affected unnecessarily.


The HSE introduced a no fault insurance scheme for nurses in mental health services in January 2008. The scheme was introduced following approval from Government in January 2007 for the HSE to establish a personal injury insurance scheme which would award fixed compensation amounts matched to a schedule of injuries.


The new scheme for psychiatric nurses is a no fault system, therefore the employee does not have to prove employer negligence.


Compensation amounts are for pain and suffering and include an element for psychological trauma.


The benefits contained in the HSE compensation scheme introduced in January 2008 are considered on independent advice to be standard and within the typical range for the benefits under a personal accident policy.


This new scheme is in accordance with commitments given by management at the Labour Relations Commission and in accordance with the Labour Court Recommendation on this matter (No. 18864).


The compensation scheme is in addition to the Revised Serious Physical Assault Scheme already in existence. This scheme provides nurses, who are absent from work as a result of a physical assault, with earnings protection - including premium earnings for a period of nine months, full basic pay for a further three months and finally 5/6th of pay until the nurse is in a position to return to work. Potentially a nurse could be in a position to receive 5/6ths of pay up to normal retirement age where he/she is unable to return to work.


Furthermore, Nurses can pursue a claim for additional compensation to the Personal Injury Assessment Board in cases where employer liability is accepted.


Mr Brendan Mulligan, Assistant CEO, Health Service Executive - Employers Agency pointed out that -


"The new compensation scheme was arrived at through all the accepted industrial relations mechanisms. Even at this stage we would urge the unions to pull back from creating any discomfort or concern to patients and to accept this scheme which was agreed following exhaustive discussions in the Labour Relations commission and the subject of a Labour Court hearing."




Note for Editors


Please see below a typical example of how compensation will now work under the new compensation regime for psychiatric nurses:



Psychiatric Nurse (Max of Scale) €45,707 (1/3/08)


25% (premium earnings) €11,427


Total €57,134



A nurse absent from work as a result of an assault resulting in a broken bone in his/her hand will be entitled to the following benefits:


Access to the Serious Physical Assault Scheme which provides the following benefits:
- A lump sum payment of €3000 under the HSE 'no fault' Personal Insurance Compensation Scheme i.e. payment will issue irrespective of whether the employee contributed in any way to the circumstances leading to the assault


- Nurse will receive monthly average earnings of €4761 ( no loss of earnings) for each month of absence up to 9 months and €3809 per month (basic pay) for a further 3 months.


- After 12 months 5/6ths of pensionable salary .i.e. €3968 per month until a return to work.


- Where a return to work is not possible the nurse will stay in receipt of the 5/6ths salary of €3968 per month until normal retirement age.


- In cases where the employer admits liability in relation to the circumstances leading to the assault, the employee can seek further compensation from the Personal Injury Assessment Board (PIAB).



To further illustrate the scheme, the top earning Nurse in our mental health services last year (in 2007) earned €120,000, of which €56,000 was earned through overtime. If this nurse went on to the above scheme he/she would suffer no loss of earnings for 9 months and would obviously qualify for a lump sum payment under the Personal Injury Insurance Scheme.





Last updated on: 02 / 05 / 2008