Date Published: 17 December 2010

Health in Ireland, Trends 2010

Health News from Ireland (Eire)

The Irish Department of Health and Children has recently published Health in Ireland: Key Trends 2010. This is the third edition of this report which presents, in booklet format, a range of data on significant trends in health and health care over the past decade.

Health in Ireland: Key Trends 2010 covers population and health status as well as trends in service provision. It is designed as an easy-to-use reference guide to significant trends in health and health care over the past decade. A number of new tables and graphs have been included on specific topics of importance and/or where new data has been made available. Each section of the booklet has a brief introduction summarising key statistics.

During the past ten years, major improvements in health status and life expectancy are evident in the tables and graphs of this booklet. Also evident is the very significant investment in the health services which has taken place resulting in increased and improved healthcare provision and which has contributed to the gains in the health of the population. The booklet also illustrates areas where significant improvements are required, where continuing health inequalties exist and where new threats to health are emerging.

Examination of trends over a decade also helps to identify the challenges facing health and the health services in the coming years. Issues such as obesity, smoking and alcohol consumption present serious problems and have the potential to undermine many of the gains achieved in recent years. The ageing of the population is already occurring and will increasingly impose additional demands on service capacity and the management of chronic conditions. Ensuring that health inequalities are reduced and that access to services is maintained and improved are major aims. In an economic climate where resources will be severely constrained, improved efficiency, effectiveness and equity at all levels of the health services will be essential in successfully managing these demands.

Key trends include:

  • Over the past decade, Ireland has achieved a rapid and unprecedented improvement in life expectancy. During a period when the average life expectancy in the EU has continued to rise, Ireland has gone from a position of nearly 1 year below the EU average life expectancy, to almost 1 year above. Much of this increase is due to significant reductions in major causes of death such as circulatory system diseases.
  • Ireland is now beginning to catch up with other European countries in terms of population ageing. The numbers of people over the age of 65 years will double in the next 20 years to over 1 million. The greatest proportional increase will be in the 85+ age group.
  • Ireland continues to have the highest levels of self-perceived health of those countries in Europe participating in the EU Survey on Income and Living Conditions. 86% of men and 83% of women rate their health as being good or very good. This compares with 71% and 65% for males and females respectively across the EU. The survey also shows significant chronic health problems in the older age groups.
  • The results of the All Ireland Traveller Health Study indicate that Travellers continue to experience much lower life expectancy than the population as a whole. For Traveller men, life expectancy is 15.1 years lower; for women it is 11.5 years lower.
  • Total hospital discharges continue to rise but an increasing proportion of this activity is now carried out on a day case basis. There has been a 139% increase in the number of day cases seen in public acute hospitals since 2000 Improved and less invasive medical practice is largely responsible for the rapid growth in day patient activity. Average length of stay in hospital for inpatients has fallen to just below 6 days for the first time.
  • 33% of the population is covered by a medical card. Numbers covered have increased by almost 30% over the decade and by over 9% between 2008 and 2009.
  • Number of prescription items dispensed under the General Medical Services has rapidly increased from 22 million to almost 51 million since 1999.
  • Immunisation rates have been increasing since 2002 and are now approaching the 95% rate as envisaged by the ‘Immunisation Guidelines for Ireland’, (2008).
  • Total public health expenditure has risen from €7.2 billion in 2001 to €15.5 billion in 2009. Estimates for 2010 indicate a decline of 4.3% on the 2009 figure, down to €14.8 billion.
  • Public capital expenditure on health was €450 million in 2009 representing a 25% decline on the previous year.

Mary Harney, TD, Minister for Health and Children said:

In welcoming this publication, I would like to draw attention to the major improvements in the health of the population and in the delivery of health services which have been achieved over the past ten years. We have seen remarkable gains in life expectancy resulting from large reductions in mortality rates from major causes of death, particularly in the area of circulatory system diseases, where death rates have decreased by 39%. Sustained investment in the health services and the introduction of new and more effective methods of treatment have played a significant part in this success.
_ We are now in a period where resources are severely constrained. Protecting and enhancing our health gains and continuing to improve health services will require working both more efficiently and more effectively. An example of our determination to achieve this is provided by the continuing move to day case treatment in our acute hospitals. At 650,000 per year, day cases now outnumber inpatients and have increased by 139% over the last decade. Our ability to measure our health and health services, with the kinds of data provided in this publication, will be increasingly essential in setting priorities and evaluating progress
. “

Link to the Report "Health in Ireland : Trends 2010".

Source: Department of Health and Children (Ireland)..

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