Irish health spending among highest in Europe, according to EU

Eurostat report shows health spending of 9.91% of GDP higher than Germany and UK

Bed occupancy rates in Ireland are the highest in the EU, Eurostat figures show. The bed occupancy rate in Ireland was over 93 per cent, compared to 75-80 per cent in France and Germany. Photograph: Vincent Hazat/PhotoAlto/Getty

Bed occupancy rates in Ireland are the highest in the EU, Eurostat figures show. The bed occupancy rate in Ireland was over 93 per cent, compared to 75-80 per cent in France and Germany. Photograph: Vincent Hazat/PhotoAlto/Getty

 

Irish health spending is among the highest in Europe and hospital staffing has exceeded pre-boom levels, according to new EU figures.

Health accounted for 9.91 per cent of Irish gross domestic product (GDP) in 2014, down from 10.42 per cent the previous year, the figures published by the EU’s statistical arm, Eurostat, show. This was higher than in Germany and the UK, with Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Austria, Sweden and Switzerland spending more than Ireland.

Irish health spending relative to other EU states is arguably even higher because the GDP-based figure includes the distorting effects arising from the presence here of so many multinationals that repatriate profits abroad.

In addition, Government spending on health has increased by at least €1 billion since 2014, so it is likely that Ireland currently ranks even higher in the rankings for health spending in the EU.

Total health spending came to more than €19 billion in 2014, including €13.3 billion spent by the Government and almost €3 billion in household out-of-pocket spending.

This was equivalent to spending of €4,147 per person on health in 2014, the sixth highest total in Europe.

Below average outcomes

At the same time, Irish health outcomes are below European averages in many areas, including cancer, heart disease and respiratory conditions.

Employment of health personnel in hospitals grew by almost 3,000 in a year, to 52,539, in 2014. This was the highest figure on record with Eurostat.

Bed occupancy rates in Ireland are the highest in the EU, the figures also show. The bed occupancy rate in Ireland was over 93 per cent, compared to 75-80 per cent in France and Germany.

The number of hospital beds in Ireland increased slightly, to 11,989, according to Eurostat. This is barely half the level recorded over a decade ago, though the figures are not directly comparable.

While recent governments have slightly increased the number of hospital beds, they have resisted large-scale increases sought by many doctors.

A Department of Health document recently calculated the capital cost each new bed at over €325,000, with annual running costs of €78,000.