Demand for healthcare services is expected to increase significantly over the coming years, particularly in relation to services for older people, a major new report has found.
According to the findings, major expansion of the health service is required to meet the needs of ‘a rapidly growing and ageing population'.
The report by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) is based on data from the 2016 Census and represents the most comprehensive mapping of activity in the Irish healthcare system to have been published.
It notes that between 2015 and 2030, the population of Ireland is projected to grow by between 14 and 23% - that is between 640,000 and 1.1 million people. During this period, the share of population aged 65 and older is expected to increase from one in eight to one in six, and the number of people aged 85 and older is expected to almost double.
As a result of this growth in population, demand for health and social care services is expected to increase in all sectors, with the greatest demand among services for older people.
A breakdown of services reveals that between 2015 and 2030:
-Demand for GP visits is projected to increase by up to 27%
-Demand for public hospital services is projected to increase by up to 37% for inpatient bed days, up to 30% for inpatient cases, and up to 29% for day patient cases
-Demand for private hospital services is projected to increase by up to 32% for inpatient bed days, up to 25% for inpatient cases, and up to 28% for day patient cases
-Demand for home help care and for residential and intermediate care places in nursing homes and other long-stay settings is projected to increase by up to 54%.
The authors of the report said that all of this additional demand will have major implications for the health service.
"The additional demand projected in this report for the years to 2030 will give rise to demand for additional expenditure, capital investment and expanded staffing and will have major implications for capacity planning, workforce planning and training.
"Additional investment will be required in most forms of care to meet the needs of a rapidly growing and ageing population. The projected population growth will, however, also increase numbers at work and contribute to national income and the revenue base to fund healthcare," the ESRI noted.
Commenting on the report, the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, said that he has long been of the view that capacity within the health service needs to be increased. However, he said that this must be done in an ‘evidence-based manner'.
"My department's collaboration with the ESRI, and the work already underway on the bed capacity review, signifies our commitment to integrate relevant, high-quality evidence into the fabric of our planning and decision making, so that we can create better health and social care services in the years and decades ahead," he said.
Responding to the report, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said that it details the 'huge challenges' facing the health service over the coming years.
"This is a most sobering, evidence-based and well-researched report, which confirms the dramatic challenges facing the health service over the coming decade and beyond. This report requires an immediate, collective and sustained response from the political system and across society," commented INMO general secretary designate, Phil Ni Sheaghdha.
Meanwhile, the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP) has warned that there are not enough GPs to meet the increased demand that is expected in the coming years. It said that the recruitment and retention of GPs must be addressed as high emigration is exacerbating the shortage of family doctors.
The report can be viewed here