Health for Everyone?

Posted on Monday, 25 November 2019

Health conditions have implications on one’s chances of leading a fulfilling and productive life. Yet, in the OECD countries, health inequality persists and severely impacts the goal of promoting inclusive growth. A recent OECD Report entitled Health for Everyone? : Social Inequalities in Health and Health Systems found that delaying and forgoing care due to problems with availability or affordability is common in EU and OECD countries.  The report aso found that in nearly all EU and OECD countries, there is a clear social gradient in unmet needs. Lower-income people experience more barriers to accessing care than the better off, with variations across countries and across reasons for unmet needs. The report found that Ireland displays very high levels of unmet needs due to costs.  Ireland also stands out as having high levels of unmet care need spread across all income groups. 

This echoes the findings on access to health services of the most recent report in Social Justice Ireland's European Research Series published in March 2019.  Our report found that while the quality of health care is high in most EU countries, there are significant variations between countries with regard both to quality and access.  Perceptions of unmet need for health care and perceptions of poorer quality of healthcare continue to be greater amongst poorer people in Europe than richer. There also continues to be great variation in these perceptions across different countries. This means that despite the economic recovery, certain groups, such as those with low-incomes, need a special focus to ensure that they benefit from general improvements and that the health systems and policies pursued in some countries need ongoing improvement.

Social Justice Ireland believes that healthcare services are fundamental to wellbeing - important in themselves and important to economic success in a range of ways, including improving work participation and productivity. People should be assured of the required treatment and care in their times of illness or vulnerability. The standard of care is dependent to a great degree on the resources made available, which in turn are dependent on the expectations of society. If healthcare is to meet the standard expected in the years ahead and address the issue of unmet needs, Social Justice Ireland believes that Government needs to shift to a model that prioritises primary and social care that would:

  • Increase the availability and quality of Primary Care and Social Care services.
  • Ensure medical card-coverage for all people who are vulnerable.
  • Create a statutory entitlement to a Home Care Package.
  • Create additional respite care and long-stay care facilities for older people and people with disabilities, and provide capital investment to build additional community nursing facilities. Implement all aspects of the dementia strategy.
  • Institute long-term planning and investment in the sector, acknowledging the impending demographic changes in Ireland, to ensure that we can cope with these changes.