Sláintecare: Heath plan ‘won’t work’ if not properly funded

Doctor group says Sláintecare will flounder without investment

The Government has not revealed how much it will cost to implement its 10-year plan to reform the Irish healthcare system.


The Government needs to commit funding to ensure the success of Sláintecare Social Democrat co-leader Roisín Shortall has said.

Ms Shortall was chairman of the all-party Oireachtas Committee on the Future of Healthcare that published the plan for reform of the health service last year.

“We need to see commitment to the level of funding set out in the Sláintecare report. We need a Transition Fund”, said Ms Shortall

Ms Shortall pointed out that the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, when he was minister for health, said that the Government must fund the reforms, but that funds should not be taken from front line services.

“If the Government is serious it needs to provide funding in the Budget,” she told RTÉ’s News at One on Wednesday.

She called on the Government to provide a timeline for the implementation of the measures proposed in Sláintecare. “I very much welcome the Government’s positive endorsement of Sláintecare. It is historic and significant that all parties accept the need for an integrated single tier health service comparable to what is on offer in other European countries.”

However, she was concerned at the lack of detail on budgeting for implementing the Sláintecare plan.

She acknowledged that there was a significant cost in introducing reforms, but warned that it was not an option not to do so. “People are dying on waiting lists.”

The UK has had the NHS for 70 years, added Ms Shortall and the vast majority of people in the UK were happy to use it with only ten per cent taking out private health insurance.

“That’s what we’re trying to achieve - a one tier system, but that won’t be achieved overnight.”

Fianna Fáil spokesperson on primary care John Brassil , who was also a member of the committee, said: “Sadly, the Government has reacted to the report with lip service but no real sense of urgency.

“In the fifteen months since we published the report, the ‘winter crisis’ in our emergency departments has extended into spring and summer. The implementation strategy is being published on a day when our nurses are reporting 520 patients on trolleys - a total that is unprecedented for August.”

The chairman of the Irish Medical Organisation said he welcomed any moves to implement “what has been sitting on a shelf for some time” but warned the Government’s Sláintecare plan would need significant up-front investment.

Dr Pádraig McGarry said funding was required to provide additional hospital beds, to attract and retain staff and to create a health service where general practitioners would want to work.

“If that resource is not provided up-front it (Sláintecare) will flounder”, he told RTÉ’s Today with Miriam radio show. The IMO represents doctors working in Ireland.

Dr McGarry said it had been well flagged for some time that the general practitioner service has been in crisis for some time. “It’s unfortunate that GPs have been under the kosh for years. They are hugely disenchanted. It’s getting harder to get people to believe that something will happen,” he said.

Dr McGarry pointed out that of the 200 GPs being trained every year only 30 per cent are prepared to stay in the country. Conditions need to improve is they are going to be retained and many patients on waiting lists could be dealt with through GP services if there were better resources, he said.

Health economist Brian Turner also warned that Sláintecare must be properly funded or it will not work.

His comments were made as Minister for Health Simon Harris revealed details of his implementation plan for Sláintecare, which seeks to significantly reduce waiting times and end the two-tier nature of the Irish healthcare system.

Mr Turner told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that he thinks Fine Gael is supportive of Sláintecare - in terms of ideology, but that the problem is the funding.

“This plan has to be funded and requires significant reform of the system. You can’t do one without the other.”

He pointed out that Sláintecare will require 2,600 extra hospital beds, an increase of 29 per cent in GPs and an increase of 89 per cent in practice nurses.

Mr Turner said that if Sláintecare isn’t put in place then even more beds will be needed within the health system.

“It has to be properly funded if it is going to work.”

If implemented properly Sláintecare could make a significant difference in waiting lists, he added. “There will always be waiting lists. There are waiting lists in every country, it’s just that ours are so significant.”