Health | Ensuring a modern response to patients needs in health services
To ask the Minister for Health if he is satisfied that the health services can be coordinated in such a way as to ensure a modern response to patients needs in all areas throughout the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Five years on from the publication of the Sláintecare Report there has been unprecedented progress in improving access, affordability and quality in our health and social care services including measures that are making an immediate impact on the lives of patients, as well as working to deliver foundational longer-term change that will significantly enhance overall capacity and patient centred care.
The progress in implementing the Sláintecare reform programme is being underpinned by the highest investment in health and social care in 2022 and 2023 in the history of the State with investment in innovation and the delivery of integrated services, and in people, new care pathways, new technologies, new facilities and new ways of working that will enable us to better respond to the growing health needs of our population.
In April 2022, the Government approved the next steps for the implementation of Regional Health Areas (RHAs) and an implementation plan will shortly be published. In December, the Government approved the new Sláintecare Consultant Contract to ensure state resources are provided in accordance with need rather than ability to pay. The same month, the Government also approved the sites of new elective hospitals in Cork and Galway to provide significant additional capacity to meet future demand, and to enable the separation of scheduled and unscheduled care.
We have continued to invest in primary care and community services to ensure that patients are treated in their locality or as close to their homes as possible. Over 2400 healthcare workers were recruited to the Enhanced Community Care Programme while 94 of the planned 96 Community Healthcare Networks are now operational.
Measures to make a real immediate difference to patients were also implemented in 2022 to expand eligibility and to make access to healthcare fairer and more equitable. These included abolition of in-patient hospital charges for children under 16 years, the introduction of free contraception for women, reduction in drug payment thresholds, and the planned extension of free GP visits in 2023 to almost half the population.
The Sláintecare 2022 Progress Report will shortly be published as will a 2023 Action Plan which will aim to continue and build on the progress made to date.
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