A new report has found significant inequalities in the supply of primary, community, and long-term healthcare services across counties in Ireland.
The report, published today by the Economic and Social Research Institute, found that the likes of Kildare, Meath, Wicklow and Wexford have a supply of those healthcare services that is 10% lower than the national average. Counties including Sligo, Cork, and Galway are at the other end of the scale.
The report sets out the geographic distribution by county of 10 prominent non-acute health and social care services in 2014, with adjustments for a range of need indicators and relative supply. It includes the provision of GPs, public health nurses, occupational therapists, and social workers as well as long-term care services including long-term residential care.
“This report demonstrates that without a resource allocation system, there has been great regional inequity in the supply of non-acute services, which cannot be explained on any needs basis,” it states.
“In the context of a national policy objective of moving care from acute hospitals into the community, such inequity may present hospitals and healthcare administrators in some areas with far greater challenges than in other areas, which are better resourced.”
According to the report: “The Greater Dublin commuter belt and south-east counties have lower relative supply of many non-acute primary and community care services than the national average. Kildare and Meath have lower relative supply (at least 10% lower than the national average) for all non-acute community and primary care services. Wexford and Wicklow have lower relative supply (at least 10% lower than the national average) for seven of the eight non-acute community and primary care services examined.
“In contrast to the low relative supply on the east coast, three counties on the west coast — Galway, Sligo, and Leitrim — as well as Cork, Westmeath, and Tipperary South have higher relative supply for many services, and do not have lower relative supply for more than one of the services examined.”
Commuter belt counties around Dublin were found to have the most acute shortages of GPs and in community nursing when the population was adjusted for the population aged 85 and over. Regarding counsellors and psychologists, Cavan, Kerry, and Kildare fared worst, while with regard to home-care hours, Dublin South, Clare, and Waterford were least well-off.
“There are substantial variations in primary, community and long-term care supply across regions in Ireland,” says the report.
“In order to achieve equity in supply, considerable increases in supply of non-acute care would be required in many counties.”
The report also refers to the lack of a national dataset that profiles the number, location, and catchment population of non-acute healthcare services in Ireland.
One of the authors of the report, Brendan Walsh, said: “The findings demonstrate that in the absence of a national resource allocation system that relates supply to population need, inequalities in the supply of health, and social care could impede progress towards proposed Sláintecare policies.”