Our Health Plan

Our Plan: Creating an Irish NHS

Our health service is at breaking point following decades of mismanagement and the resulting problems have a hugely negative impact on people’s health and well-being. Vulnerable patients are left on trolleys for days in overcrowded emergency departments. Citizens are dying after spending years on waiting lists for life-saving operations. Rural communities live in fear of accidents when ambulances can take hours to arrive. Patients and their families must travel for basic procedures that could be done closer to home. We have a very hospital-focused health system (rather than a community care focus as in higher performing countries) and a top- heavy administration of the service.

Yet there is hope – we have incredibly talented front-line healthcare staff, we have a health budget in line with other developed countries with great health systems, and widespread public support for major reform of our health service. This is a great opportunity to undertake a root-and branch reform.

As the Chinese proverb goes: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now”.

The focus of health reform must be on the great opportunities we have to improve health outcomes and reduce the cost –these include:

  • tackling the A&E and waiting list crises,
  • expanding primary care provision,
  • delivering a smart ambulance service,
  • preventing health problems before they happen,
  • and getting value for money from administration and procurement.

Implementation is key – we can have all of the plans in the world but if there is no means or political will to implement them, they are worthless. We need to set out a long- term vision for the service, restore front-line staff morale, work across government departments, and build cross-party support for a modern single tier healthcare system. We must ensure there is a publicly funded, universally accessible, high quality healthcare system along the lines of the NHS model in the UK when it was properly resourced. This, in time, would end the current two-tier health service and reduce the need for private health insurance in Ireland by making public and private healthcare effectively equivalent in terms of quality and accessibility. Inevitably, implementation would bring up challenges and roadblocks and the approach to reform must include a dedicated team to drive reform, openness & data transparency, and aligning of incentives across the system.

If fundamental reform of the health service were easy, it would be done already. But we are ready and prepared to take on the challenge so that we can have a health service that keeps all of our citizens healthy and of which we can all be proud.

The Social Democrats Healthcare Plan

The aim of the Social Democrats is to build an Irish National Health Service – a publicly funded health service that would be accessible to all, improve health outcomes and reduce the cost to deliver high quality healthcare. Over the next decade, we would propose to:

  • Phase 1: Re-orientate the health service by switching activity and care away from acute hospitals and into the community
  • Phase 2: Provide universal access to primary and community healthcare services
  • Phase 3: End the current two-tier hospital service by raising the standard of our public hospital service in terms of access and quality

If you want to read more about how we can build an Irish NHS, download our full manifesto:

Building a Better Future (2016 – 2026)


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