Press Release

Minister addresses National Health Strategy Consultative Forum

The Minister for Health and Children, Mr. Micheál Martin TD, today (23rd April 2001) addressed the first Plenary Session of the National Health Strategy Consultative Forum held in Jury’s Hotel, Ballsbridge. The Forum, which is chaired by Dr Danny O’Hare, former President of Dublin City University, is one of a number of levels in the consultation process which will inform the preparation of the new Health Strategy for the reform and modernisation of the health and personal social services over the next 5 to 7 years. The Forum comprises representatives of key stakeholders in the health services, including health professionals and other staff groups, management and patient/client advocacy groups.

Welcoming the participants, the Minister said “My purpose today is two-fold: to listen to what you the participants have to say and to give you my view of how we might best map the way forward. The new Strategy is not just about health services, it is also concerned with improving the health status of the Irish population. It is essential that every opportunity is taken to bring a cross-sectoral focus to the work of preparing the Strategy.”

The Minister explained that he hoped that the extensive level of research and consultation being undertaken will ensure that the Strategy will be informed by a wide variety of perspectives, as well as by expert views; that it will result in support for the choices made in devising the Strategy and, very importantly, that the public, providers, service users and staff have ownership of the plan for the future.

Preparation of the Strategy will be founded on the key principles of equity, quality, accountability and being people-centred.

Against the backdrop of these principles, the Consultative Forum, subdivided into groups, will consider eight key themes for the Strategy. These are eligibility, funding, delivery systems/human resources, e-health, quality, health promotion/population health, futures and voluntary/statutory interface. These sub-groups will consider the themes over the coming weeks. The next plenary session of the Forum is expected to take place towards the end of June.

There has been major investment in the health services in the past few years. Health funding has doubled from £2.5 billion in 1997 to £5 billion this year. However, in addition to the level of funding for future health services, we need to consider the method of funding. In the context of the strategy, a number of questions on this issue need to be addressed.

It is recognised that the underlying principle on eligibility for health services should be fair access to all. Keeping this in mind the Minister will be posing the following important questions:

  • Should we move to a rights-bases approach to access of health care? Should we move away from the concept of eligibility to that of entitlement?
  • How can we achieve fair access for all based on medical need? Would this mean a radical restructuring or could it be achieved by increasing capacity and targeting certain problem areas?

The Minister thanked Dr O’Hare for chairing the Consultative Forum. He again stressed that “the Government is fully committed to the development of a new Health Strategy and an agenda of reform for the health system which includes an examination of funding methods and levels.”

In addition to the Consultative Forum, members of the general public and other interested parties are being consulted in a number of ways. The process includes a call for submissions and local level consultation. Advertisements have already been placed in the national media. The Health Services National Partnership Forum, representing management, unions and staff in the health services, will also play a significant role in the consultation process.

Another important input to the process is the work of the National Anti Poverty Strategy (NAPS). A NAPS working group is focusing on the relationship between poverty and ill-health and its work will feed into the new Strategy.