IHCA Statement on HSE National Service Plan 2024

By dara
Friday, 16th February 2024

“Lack of commitment to open required additional acute hospital beds is wholly inadequate” 

Front cover HSE National Service Plan 2024The Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) has criticised the lack of commitment in the HSE National Service Plan 2024 to open a specified number of additional general acute hospital beds this year.

The Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly has previously announced plans to open 147 additional acute beds in 2024, however, this is not reflected in the HSE’s National Service Plan. The figure is also significantly below what is required to start addressing the severe overcrowding in our public hospitals and tackle the persistently high waiting times for treatment. 

The Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) has estimated public acute hospitals need 1,000 additional inpatient beds immediately and an extra 330 beds a year just to keep up with demand from increasing population pressures. 

While any increase in health funding is welcome, the fact that an almost €1 billion supplementary budget was required for 2023 outside of the original budget allocation illustrates that the health service continues to be inadequately funded. A similar deficit is now likely in 2024, resulting in a substantial supplementary budget again being required next December to bridge that funding gap.

A spokesperson for the IHCA said:
“It is deeply disappointing that the Service Plan for 2024 has failed to commit to opening a specified number of additional general public hospital beds this year. 

“Even if all of the 147 additional beds promised by the Minister for 2024 are opened on time, this would mean a net increase of just 45 hospital beds over and above where we should have been at more than a year ago.   

“This level of bed expansion, if delivered, is far less than provided for in the National Development Plan, which averages 260 beds per annum, a level the Minister for Health is on record as stating “lowballed” the hospital capacity needs in the first place.

“It is also regrettable that the HSE and Government continues to renege on its pledge to commit the €1 billion in funding required to open 1,500 additional rapid build hospital beds across 15 acute public hospital sites this year.  

“At the same time, the delivery of the promised six surgical hubs and long awaited four elective hospitals must be accelerated in order to provide the capacity that is required to meet all of the Government’s waiting list reduction targets.

“It is also particularly concerning that the National Service Plan only delivers a modest increase in the Mental Health Budget to €1.308bn in 2024. This is an increase of just €34m (2.7%) on the revised 2023 Budget of €1.274bn.

“Despite a slight overall increase in spending, just €3.1m is allocated for new measures in mental health. This is the second year in a row when the level of funding for new measures has actually decreased compared with the previous year: from €24m in 2022 to €14m in 2023 and to just €3.1m in 2024 – a reduction of almost €21m or 87% in two years.” 


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Niamh Kinsella | niamh.kinsella@finnparters.com | 087 921 9711

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