Healthcare gains ‘being wiped out’

Smoking and alcohol consumption in Ireland could undo many of the health gains achieved in recent years, a report from the Department of Health has warned.

Death from circulatory diseases, including heart disease and stroke, fell by almost 36% between 2002 and 2011 and there was an 8% decrease in cancer death rates. Cancer survival rates are over 2% above the EU average.

Mortality from circulatory system diseases is now virtually the same as that for cancer — it was 50% higher 10 years ago and 100% higher 20 years ago.

The report warns, however, that many of the gains achieved as a result of better healthcare could be wiped out by serious problems caused by smoking and alcohol use.

Data from the Revenue Commissioners suggests that both alcohol and cigarette consumption are at lower levels than they were 10 years ago but the report warns that the figures need to be treated with caution because illegal imports may exaggerate the decline.

It points out that there was little change in alcohol and tobacco consumption in the last two years.

The report shows there has been a doubling in the number of day cases in public hospitals since 2002, with average length of stay in hospital falling to just under six days.

It found that Ireland is beginning to catch up with other European countries in terms of aging.

The number of people over the age of 65 is projected to almost double to over 1m by 2035, with the greatest increase in the 85-plus age group.

According to the report, 37% of the population is now covered by the medical card, a 45% increase over the decade, with a 5% increase recorded over the last two years.

In contrast, there has been a decline in the number of people covered by private health insurance since 2008.

The number of those paying for private care is down to over 2.1m in 2011.

The report points out that immunisation rates have been increasing since 2002 and are now at 95% for most immunisations.

Death rates from suicide are down 4% since 2002 but increased by 6% between 2010 and 2011.

There are now 20% fewer admissions to psychiatric hospitals and units than there were in 2002. There was a 3% decline between 2010 and 2011.


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