SIPTU has called for the Government to implement a policy of replacing agency workers with directly recruited staff following the release of figures indicating that the Department of Health and HSE paid out €238 million to private recruitment companies during 2013. SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “It is not a surprise that recruitment agencies have been the big winners due to the rigid application of the embargo on recruiting staff by the public service since 2010. The €238 million spent on employing agency workers in the public health service in 2013 was despite an instruction to all managers throughout the HSE and related agencies not to use agency staff.“SIPTU members working in frontline posts in nursing, midwifery and as support staff have over the past four years bitterly complained about the amount of monies being spent on recruitment agencies' commission and VAT to hire in workers for positions that should be long term directly recruited posts. The policy does not make economic sense. It is based around the false economy of moving staff numbers ‘off balance sheet’ so it can be claimed that permanent staff numbers can be reduced without any impact on services or patients”.Paul Bell added: “The SIPTU campaign to stop the over-reliance on the use of agency staff met with success in Budget 2015 when Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform,  Brendan Howlin, announced the ending of the staff recruitment embargo with immediate effect.“However, the ending of the recruitment embargo alone will not end the reliance on agency staff. The Government must re-direct the monies provided to agency firms to the HSE to directly recruit staff.  SIPTU is calling on the HSE to identify each post filled by an agency worker and, where appropriate, open a recruitment competition to fill the position on a direct contract basis. Of course agency workers currently employed in these positions could apply for the new direct contract posts.“The issue of reducing staff numbers in the health service should not be about optics; it should also be based on value for money. It is now clear that the only organisations that benefited from the chaos caused by the Fianna Fáil/Green Party Government’s implementation of an unlimited voluntary redundancy scheme in 2010 were private recruitment agencies some of which have earned tens of millions of euros each year since this disastrous policy was introduced”.