An additional 17,298 staff working in our health services

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Stephen Donnelly
Stephen Donnelly

Through the unprecedented investment in health and social services over the last three years, there was now an additional 17,298 staff working in the Irish health services, 2,400 healthcare workers recruited to the Enhanced Community Care Programme providing more care in the community, 970 additional acute beds and a 25% increase in critical care capacity, according to Health Minister, Stephen Donnelly.

He said this progress made last year was underpinned by the highest investment in health and social care in 2022 and 2023 in the history of the State. Launching the Sláintecare Progress Report 2022, the Minister said the focus in 2023 would continue to be on improving access, outcomes and affordability for patients by increasing the capacity and effectiveness of the workforce, infrastructure and delivery of patient care. 

He said there had been significant reductions in waiting times. In 2022, the overall number of patients exceeding the Sláintecare maximum wait time targets recommended in the 2017 Oireachtas Report (10 weeks OPD, 12 weeks IPDC / GI Scope) decreased by 11%.

“In 2022 and 2023 central elements of Sláintecare have and are being achieved, including the new public-only Consultant Contract, a new community-based service, Enhanced Community Care (ECC), and certain eligibility measures. Many Sláintecare measures have been achieved, or are progressed at pace, while some require significant additional focus, such as eHealth. At the same time, important new Programme for Government measures, also essential to universal healthcare, and which move beyond Sláintecare, are also progressing well. These include clinical strategies and services, acute and critical care capacity and new eligibility measures.”

Mr. Donnelly said 2,400 healthcare workers had been recruitedto the Enhanced Community Care (ECC) Programme, establishing 94 of the planned 96 Community Healthcare Networks (CHNs) and 21 Community Specialist Teams for Older Persons and 21 specialist teams for Chronic Disease Management.

The GP Direct Access to Diagnostics schemeprovided a direct referral pathway for GPs to allow their patients access diagnostic scans. It delivered over 250,000 diagnostics in 2022.

A total of 970 additional acute bedshad been delivered since January 2020. Latest figures from the HSE confirmed that there were 14,508 beds in acute settings (including obstetrics and psychiatric beds) against a target of 13,600 beds identified in the Health Service Capacity Review.

Critical care capacity now had 323 beds, which represented an increase of approximately 25% over the 2020 baseline of 258 beds. This also meant that Phase 1 of the Critical Care Strategy was now delivered and progress underway to deliver Phase 2.

There were 17,298 more WTEsworking in our health service than there were in January 2020 – this included an additional 4,592 nurses and midwives, 2,654 health and social care professionals and 1,758 doctors and dentists.

“ Without the intervention of the 2022 Waiting List Action Plan, active hospital waiting lists would have increased by 42% to over 1 million people. Instead, there were c.1.56 million patients removed and c.1.53 million patients added to hospital waiting lists during 2022 – a net reduction of c.30,000 people (4.1%) to c.690,000,” said the Minister.

“There were 21.02m of home support hours delivered in 2022. Major Trauma Centre servicescommenced in 2022 at the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital and were on track to start at Cork University Hospital from early 2023.

“In 2022, €11m secured 149 Advanced Nurse and Midwife Practitionernew additional posts for the health service.

“A Framework for the design and delivery of post-natalhubswas finalised and approval for the development of five hubs at Kerry, Kilkenny, Cork, Sligo and Portiuncula was agreed.”