Health system under ‘unprecedented strain’ warns HIQA

By Reporter - 14th Dec 2022 | 131 views

The Irish health system is witnessing a “significantly higher” number of patients presenting to emergency departments (EDs) than in previous years, a new HIQA report warns.

The report states that the health system “is under unprecedented strain” highlighting challenges such as ineffective patient flow, limited bed capacity, reduced access to community services and insufficient staffing levels, “which continue to cause overcrowding in Irish emergency departments”.

“Findings from this new programme of inspections continues to highlight that overcrowding in emergency departments compromises the dignity and respect of patients, and poses a risk to health and safety of patients,” said Mr Sean Egan, HIQA’s Director of Healthcare.

“Improvements are needed to ensure that there is a balanced approach to the daily operational management of patient flow, capacity and appropriate staffing, which is clearly linked to patient safety and activity.”

Through the inspection findings, HIQA has identified four key areas for both immediate and longer-term attention to address safety issues in  EDs. These include “urgently” building additional capacity within the whole healthcare system, both acute and community.

HIQA also recommends more “responsive leadership, governance and management arrangements at local, regional and national level” and better strategic workforce planning.

“The Irish healthcare system remains challenged by bed capacity and workforce shortages, and access and capacity issues in primary care,” said Mr Egan.

“Emergency department overcrowding and insufficient access to acute and primary services will continue to occur unless a system-wide approach is taken to address major structural concerns and respond to, rather than continuing to tolerate or normalise, this problem.

“Delivering care in overcrowded and understaffed environments poses a significant risk to the provision of safe, quality, person-centred care. It is for this reason that urgent efforts to progress whole system change to our health service must be progressed.”

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