A new report from the HSE on the future of emergency medicine says that patients should be assessed and either discharged or admitted within six hours of arrival in an emergency department.

The 560-page 'Report of the National Emergency Medicine Programme' says the role of nurses should be expanded and there should be an increased level of consultant provided care.

It also calls for collaborative networks of emergency departments within regions and says patients should receive the same standards of emergency care wherever they access services.

There should be enhanced consultant staffing levels in emergency medicine, the report adds.

National Clinical Lead with the Emergency Medicine Programme Dr Una Geary said that excellence should be the norm in all hospitals.

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, Dr Geary said there should be collaborative networks of emergency departments within regions.

She said patients should receive the same standards of emergency care wherever they access services.

Dr Geary also rejected suggestions that this was a form of downgrading hospitals.

"We're adamant in our report, that every hospital has a role to play in our emergency care system," she added.

38 early retirement staff rehired

Minister for Health James Reilly has told the Dáil that 38 people have been rehired by the Health Service Executive to meet the demands of crucial services.

Mr Reilly said that it is the policy of the Department of Health and HSE not to rehire workers who availed of the early retirement scheme in February of this year, but they have had to rehire in exceptional circumstances, including 11 consultants, four medical staff, 19 nurses, and one clerical officer.

He said the Department has rehired three individuals on a temporary basis for preparations for the Irish presidency of the EU.

Fianna Fáil's Billy Kelleher raised the question of hiring of agency staff, saying that in the first quarter of 2012, €51m was spent on hiring of agency workers.

If it continues, he said, we would be looking at a cost of well over €220m by the year's end.

Mr Reilly said this is an area they are focussing on reducing, and he is looking forward to the public service agreement to address the issue.

Department agrees new drugs deal

The Minister also told the Dáil that the Department has agreed with the pharmaceutical companies on a sum of money to be reimbursed to the Department, which allows it to open up negotiations for a more comprehensive deal.

It will also allow the Department to release new drugs, such as Gilenya which can transform the lives of multiple sclerosis sufferers.