Health Service in Ireland

Who governs the health service in Ireland?

The Government, Minister for Health and Children and Department of Health and Children are at the head of the health service provision in Ireland. The Department of Health and Children’s primary role is to support the Minister in formulating and evaluating policies for the health services.

While the Department of Health and Children decides on health policy in Ireland, the Health Service Executive (HSE) is the organisation responsible for delivering public health services. The HSE came into operation in Ireland on 1st January 2005, replacing the ten former regional health boards in order to provide a single national organisation responsible for the delivery of health care.

Every year, the Department of Health and Children allocates funding to the HSE. Each HSE Area then makes decisions about how they will distribute available resources to the agencies in their area.

How is the Health Service Executive organised?

The HSE has three sections (called service delivery units) with responsibility for delivering health and personal social services to the public. These are called:

  • Primary, Continuing and Community Care: provides care in the community, for example GP and community-based health and social services.
  • National Hospitals Office: provides public hospital and ambulance services
  • Population Health: involved in health promotion and protection of the health of the population.

All of these services are delivered through the following four HSE Administrative regions (or ‘HSE Areas’):

  • HSE Dublin Mid-Leinster: covering Dublin city south of the River Liffey, south Dublin county, Wicklow, Kildare, Longford, Westmeath, Laois and Offally
  • HSE Dublin North-East: covering Dublin city north of the River Liffey, Fingal, Louth, Meath, Cavan and Monaghan
  • HSE West: covering Limerick, Clare, Tipperary (North Riding), Galway, Mayo, Roscommon, Donegal, Sligo and Leitrim
  • HSE South: covering Carlow, Kilkenny, Tipperary (South Riding), Waterford, Wexford, Cork and Kerry

Each HSE Administrative Areas is responsible for the provision, or for arranging the provision of, health and social services to the people in its area. A network of 32 Local Health Offices distributed throughout the four main HSE Areas provide the main points of entry to community health and personal social services in your area.

You can find contact details for your Local Health Office at the following link:

What services does the HSE provide?

The HSE provides a wide range of different services in hospitals and communities throughout the country. Health services can be broadly defined as those services that are concerned with the:

  • Promotion of good health
  • Prevention of illness (for example, food safety services, immunisation and vaccinations services, health screening, infant and child health services)
  • The diagnosis and treatment of illness (for example, family doctor (GP) services and hospital services)

Community care and personal social services can be broadly defined as those that are designed to enable people to remain living in their communities, especially when they have difficulties doing so because of illness, disability or age. Examples include home nursing services, home helps, occupational therapy and social work services.

Reviewed: September 27, 2006