Current healthcare practices will become increasingly unsustainable by 2021 because of Ireland’s growing and aging population, the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) has said.
In the report, Projecting the Impact of Demographic Change on the Demand for and Delivery of Healthcare in Ireland, it said it would be challenging to shift the emphasis from acute hospitals to primary, community and continuing care services.
Our population is estimated to rise to 5.1 million by 2021. The number of those aged 65 and over will increase from 11 to 15.4 per cent of the population, with the number over-85 doubling to 2.1 per cent.
The prevalence of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer is expected to increase by 12 per cent.
It pointed out the HSE’s preferred health system strategy sets out a reduction in acute hospital beds by 2020 through a reduction in average inpatient length of stay.
This will require development of both primary and long-stay services, as well as social care services ‘if it is to be practicable and not lead to a severe degradation in the level and quality of service’, the report stated.
We will need about 350 more GPs in 2021. The number of training places would have to increase from 120 to 150 now to make a substantial impact on the shortfall. To bring the number of GPs to European Union (EU) levels, 1,800 more would be needed.
GP consultations will increase by 33 per cent because elderly people account for a high number of GP visits.
“Within primary care, a speedy and full implementation of the Primary Care Strategy (2001) would make better use of existing resources and moderate the impact of supply constraints among GPs,” it said.
Outpatient consultations could increase by almost 25 per cent by 2021. The number of prescriptions dispensed as part of the GMS scheme, Drug Payment Scheme and Long-term Illness Scheme is estimated to double compared to 2006.
Over 13,000 additional residential, long-term care places will be required, compared to the number of places required in 2006.
The HSE welcomed the report saying it was consistent with the strategies being pursued by its Transformation Programme (2007-2010).