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The Minister was speaking as he published the report of the Health Service Capacity Review, which outlines projections of demand and capacity requirements for a range of health services to 2031.
The report has found that the system is operating at or above capacity across most services, and demand will grow significantly over the period to 2031.
If key reforms and productivity measures are implemented, the following additional capacity will be required by 2031: nearly 2,600 extra acute hospital beds; 48 per cent increase in primary care workforce; 13,000 extra residential care beds (older persons services) and; 120 per cent increase in homecare.
Without reform, the following capacity increases are projected to meet this increase in demand: over 7,000 extra acute hospital beds; 37 per cent increase in primary care workforce; 12,000 extra residential care beds; and 70 per cent increase in homecare.
Minister Harris commented: “Increasing capacity in the health service is vital but this must be done based on evidence. That is why commissioning this Bed Capacity Review was a priority for me. It looks at capacity needs of the health service not just now, but up to 2031. This kind of analysis is integral to future planning. The completion of this review is timely as we enter a new period of investment in our public services and it clearly outlines the need for investment and reform in the Irish healthcare system and provides quantitative evidence for this.”
In relation to future demand for health services, Minister Harris added: “We know we have entered a relatively new phase of demographic ageing in Ireland. Our population also continues to grow. These changes will have particular impacts on the demand for health services, as older age cohorts tend to be the highest users of most health services. The findings of this review are broadly consistent with a separate analysis of future demand for healthcare undertaken by the ESRI last year and give us a clear indication of the extent of demand increases to expect.”
The Minister concluded that the report, which was internationally peer reviewed, provides a “very important evidence base”, which will inform future investment and policy decisions.
“It is clear that investment and reform must now happen in tandem and must be mutually supportive of each other. That is why as Minister for Health I am committed to delivering both. The findings of this review are being considered in the context of the upcoming National Development Plan, while the implementation plan for Sláintecare, which will be considered by Government shortly, will set out a clear roadmap for reforming our health service.”
The capacity review was a key commitment in the Programme for a Partnership Government, and was commissioned in response to the growing demand for health services.
It is the culmination of a year-long project within the Department of Health. A Steering Group comprising senior officials from the Department, Department of the Taoiseach, the HSE, and clinical and academic experts including representatives from the ESRI and NUI Galway, oversaw the capacity review. An independent international peer review group was established to review and validate the methodology and approach. PA Consulting was commissioned to provide “technical, analytical and engagement expertise”.