People living longer but access to healthcare still an issue – report

People living longer but access to healthcare still an issue – report
Health Minister Simon Harris

People in Ireland are living longer but access to healthcare remains an issue.

Life expectancy has increased to 83.6 years for women and 79.9 years for men, up almost two-and-a-half years since 2006, with male life expectancy consistently higher than the EU average throughout the last decade.

People are living longer because of significant reductions in major causes of death such as circulatory system diseases and cancer.

The overall mortality rate has reduced by 14.9% since 2008.

However, like most European countries, the rate of improvement in Ireland's life expectancy has begun to slow in recent years.

Life expectancy is one of a number of trends to emerge from the 11th edition of Health in Ireland: Key Trends, published by the Department of Health.

It also highlights the challenges that persist in getting timely and efficient healthcare.

The total number of people on outpatient waiting lists increased to over 500,000 in October, with 150,000 waiting more than a year.

It also shows that the number of acute beds has fallen from 1,907 in 2016 to 1,796 last year, a 5.8% decrease.

From 2008 to 2014, the average length of stay in a public hospital decreased by 10.6% but has since increased by 3.7% with the average length of stay currently at 5.6 days.

However, the number of patients waiting for an inpatient or day case procedure has fallen by 24%. There were 15,523 patients waiting in October.

Health Minister Simon Harris said the report highlighted where things were going well and where improvements were needed.

A 'striking feature' was the growth in the number of people aged 65 and over – this age group increased by almost 20,000 each year.

“This trend is set to continue and will have implications for future planning and health service delivery,” the minister said.

The report also shows that from 11 pm to 2pm on a Monday is the busiest time for hospital emergency departments with the highest attendances occurring between 9am and 5pm on weekdays.

The highest attendance volumes in EDs occur on Monday mornings between 11am and 1pm.

Both the number of blood donations and the percentage of blood donors have declined over the past five years – less than 2% of the population are donors. Whole blood donations decreased by almost 5,000 per year since 2013.

There have been improvements in survival rates from breast, cervical, colon and rectal cancers over the last 15 years. However, with the exception of rectal cancer, five-year survival rates are lower in Ireland than the OECD average.

Meanwhile, there has been a 26% reduction in the mortality rate from suicide since 2008. Following an increase in the male suicide rate from 2008 to 2012, the three-year moving average has decreased, falling below the EU average for the first time since 2010.

One-third of the population (33%) had a medical card at the end of last year, compared with 30.1% in 2008 while the number of people registered for the Drugs Payments Scheme has decreased by 22.5% between 2008 and 2017. Over 140,000 more people are on the Long-Term Illness Scheme since 2008, a 118.7% increase.

Finally, there has been a 7.2% increase in the numbers living in long-stay facilities since 2014 and almost half are aged over 85.

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