Health service demands will increase by up to 70% unless urgent action is taken, a health economist at UCC has warned.
Dr Brian Turner said that current capacity constraints in the health service make the implementation of the cross-party Slaintecare plan “hugely challenging” but extremely important.
He warned that a growing and ageing population will increase demands on the health service by up to 70% for some services if the status quo is maintained.
Key recommendations of the Slaintecare plan include universal GP and primary care, an expansion of social care, more public hospital activity and the recruitment of additional consultants.
“The health service is under a huge amount of strain across all areas, and this will increase sharply in the coming years, particularly if the Slaintecare reforms are not implemented,” said Dr Turner.
“This would make a bad situation even worse, and lead to huge difficulties for patients and medical professionals,” he warned.
If the Sláintecare reforms are fully implemented, it is projected that Ireland will need 2,600 additional hospital beds, 13,000 additional residential care beds and a 48% increase in the primary care workforce, including more than 1,100 additional GPs.
“Our population is set to increase by nearly 12% between 2016 and 2031, with the over-85s population increasing by 96% over the same period,” explained Dr Turner.
“The current system simply cannot cope with this additional demand — it is clear that more funding and resources are badly needed.
“Dealing with capacity, and implementing reform need to go hand-in-hand,” he added.
“Recent cost overruns for the National Children’s Hospital highlight the financial difficulties in the sector at present.
“Lessons need to be learned from this if the ambitious capital programme for health is to be achieved.”