Review says thousands of extra beds required

Nearly 2,600 extra acute hospital beds, a 48% increase in the primary care workforce, 13,000  extra residential care beds for older persons and a 120% increase in homecare will be required by 2031 if  key reforms and productivity measures are implemented, according to the Health Service Capacity Review.  Maureen Browne reports.

Simon Harris T.D.
Simon Harris T.D.

The review says that without reform, over 7,000 extra acute hospital beds , a 37% increase in  the primary care workforce,  12,000  extra residential care beds for older people and a    70% increase in homecare would be required.

The report – which is the culmination of a year-long project within the Department of Health –  said the system was operating at or above capacity across most services, and demand would grow significantly over the period to 2031.

Launching the report, Health Minister, Simon Harris said that investment and reform must go hand in hand if we are to break the cycle of hospital overcrowding.  He was committed to delivering both reform and investment.

Without reform, over 7,000 extra acute hospital beds , a 37% increase in  the primary care workforce,  12,000  extra residential care beds for older people and a70% increase in homecare would be required.

The review said the population was forecast to increase by 12% over the projection period, with an increase of nearly 60% in the 65 years plus age cohort. The number of people aged over 85 years was projected to double.

The report highlighted that Ireland’s acute hospital occupancy levels were around 95%, far in excess of the international norm of 85%.These occupancy levels meant that at times of peak demand, such as being experienced at the moment, hospitals had extremely limited available “surge” capacity. The report called for this to be addressed in the short term.

In relation to future demand for health services, the Minister said, “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 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.”

A Steering Group comprising senior officials from the Department of Health, Department of the Taoiseach, and 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.