Demand for healthcare projected to increase substantially with rapid growth and ageing of population

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Publication of ESRI Report – Projections of Demand for Healthcare in Ireland, 2015-2030: First Report from the Hippocrates Model

Today (26 October) the ESRI published a new report providing annual projections of demand for public and private health and social care services in Ireland for the years 2015–2030. These projections are based on new ESRI projections for population growth, the first projections to be published based on the 2016 Census. The report contains the most comprehensive mapping of public and private activity in the Irish healthcare system to have been published.

Main findings

The main findings of this report are that over the years 2015 to 2030:

  • The population of Ireland is projected to grow by between 14 to 23 per cent adding 640,000 to 1.1 million people;
  • The share of population aged 65 and over is projected to increase from one in eight to one in six;
  • Numbers of people aged 85 and over are projected to almost double;
  • Demand for health and social care is projected to increase across all sectors, with the greatest increases for services for older people;
  • Demand for home help care and for residential and intermediate care places in nursing homes and other settings is projected to increase by up to 54 per cent;
  • Demand for public hospital services is projected to increase by up to 37 per cent for inpatient bed days and up to 30 per cent for inpatient cases;
  • Demand for GP visits is projected to increase by up to 27 per cent.

From detailed analysis of healthcare services in the 2015 base year, the report finds that:

  • Public hospitals delivered approximately 85 per cent of total inpatient bed days and private hospitals delivered 15 per cent;
  • People paid privately for 27 per cent of total home help hours.

Policy Implications

The additional demand projected in this report for the years to 2030 will give rise to demand for additional expenditure, capital investment and expanded staffing and will have major implications for capacity planning, workforce planning and training. Additional investment will be required in most forms of care to meet the needs of a rapidly growing and ageing population. The projected population growth will, however, also increase numbers at work and contribute to national income and the revenue base to fund healthcare.

Selected Detailed Findings

A range of projections is presented reflecting alternative assumptions about population growth, trends in health with longer life, and levels of unmet need or demand. The projections assume no change in models of care. Such changes could reduce projected demand growth in some sectors and increase projected demand growth in others.

 Public hospital services

  • Demand for inpatient bed days is projected to increase by between 32 to 37 per cent by 2030 from 3.27 million in 2015;
  • Demand for inpatient cases is projected to increase by between 24 to 30 per cent by 2030 from 0.51 million in 2015;
  • Demand for day-patient cases is projected to increase by between 23 to 29 per cent by 2030 from 1.01 million in 2015.

Private hospital services

  • Demand for private hospital inpatient bed days is projected to increase by between 28 to 32 per cent by 2030 from 0.61 million in 2015;
  • Demand for private hospital inpatient cases is projected to increase by between 20 to 25 per cent by 2030 from 0.13 million in 2015;
  • Demand for private hospital day-patient cases is projected to increase by between 24 to 28 per cent by 2030 from 0.46 million in 2015.

GP and practice nurse services

  • Demand for GP visits is projected to increase by between 20 to 27 per cent by 2030 from 17.55 million in 2015;
  • Demand for practice nurse visits is projected to increase by between 26 to 32 per cent by 2030 from 5.94 million in 2015.

Long-term and intermediate care

  • Demand for long-term and intermediate care places in nursing homes and other settings is projected to increase by between 40 to 54 per cent by 2030 from 29,000 in 2015.

Home care

  • Demand for home help hours is projected to increase by between 38 to 54 per cent by 2030 from 14.3 million in 2015.

The report also provides projections for maternity services, public hospital Emergency Department and Outpatient services, pharmaceuticals, pharmacy consultations, home care packages, public health nursing, and public community therapy services.

Dr Maev-Ann Wren, ESRI Senior Research Officer and lead author, said: “This research shows that expansion will be required in most forms of care to meet the needs of a rapidly growing and ageing population”.

Commenting on the report, Simon Harris, TD, Minister for Health, said: “I have long been of the view that we need to increase capacity in our health services, but that this must be done in an evidence-based manner. I welcome the publication of this report, and the development of the underlying projection model upon which the analysis and findings are based. My Department’s collaboration with the ESRI, and the work already underway on the bed capacity review, signifies our commitment to integrate relevant, high-quality evidence into the fabric of our planning and decision making, so that we can create better health and social care services in the years and decades ahead.”

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