Press Release

Department of Health and Children challenges validity of survey on Irish healthcare

The Department of Health and Children today challenged the validity of the Euro Health Consumer Index 2006 as the basis for a proper analysis and international comparison of the healthcare system in Ireland.

Cross-national comparisons of healthcare systems, outcomes and delivery are notoriously difficult and must be based on standardised statistical indicators and data collection. There is no evidence that these fundamental methodological requirements have been met in this report. Indeed, the survey itself cautions that its results have to be treated with great care and that the conclusions to be drawn from it are very restricted.

In compiling the report there was no contact with the Department’s representative in Brussels and the Department has found no evidence of a request to it for information.

The Department welcomes and regularly takes part in established international surveys of our health system and these can be found in publications by the OECD, the WHO and other international bodies.

The data for Ireland would appear to be out of date and the report does not take into account the significant additional investment, reforms and service improvements which have been introduced in Ireland in recent years. As well as these obvious weaknesses, it is also clear that the survey simply got it wrong in relation to some of the measures for Ireland and fails to take account of the significantly and widely accepted indicators. These include:-

  • the measure of patient’s satisfaction is based on an old survey with some patient advocacy groups and ignores the comprehensive survey by the Irish Society for Quality and Safety in Healthcare in 2004 of 4,820 patients respondents which found high levels of satisfaction with Irish healthcare;
  • it takes no account of life expectancy which has risen sharply in Ireland in recent years;
  • Ireland is given the minimum score of 1 for the “time to see a G.P.” despite the fact that Irish patients generally have same day access to their G.P, unlike the situation in many other countries;
  • the minimum score is also awarded for “direct access to specialist care” although it is not accepted internationally that this is the most appropriate way to organise services;
  • Ireland is also given the minimum score on waiting times for certain treatment but these have been significantly reduced in recent years: the report makes no mention of the improvements in waiting times which have resulted from the National Treatment Purchase Fund;
  • again a minimum score was awarded for infant poliomyelitis vaccination although more recent figures show a rate of 91% at 24 months;
  • no account seems to have been taken of the mandate of the Ombudsman in the field of healthcare and of the role of the Ombudsman for Children or of the statutory complaints procedure in the Health Act 2004.