Press Release

Minister for Health and Children welcomes study which assists workforce planning for healthcare occupations

Ms. Mary Harney, T.D. Minister for Health and Children today (Wednesday, 17th June 2009) welcomed the publication of a report by the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs which details workforce planning analysis for selected healthcare occupations.

The analysis in the report – A Quantitative Tool for Workforce Planning in Healthcare – was undertaken by the Skills and Labour Market Research Unit in FÁS for the Expert Group. The Expert Group’s function is to advise the Irish Government on current and future skills needs of the economy and on other labour market issues that impact on Ireland’s enterprise and employment growth.

The report provides a valuable evidence base for workforce planning decisions in respect of the twelve health care occupations covered by the study. A previous report by FÁS in 2005 provided valuable data and led to policy decisions for improving the supply of certain healthcare grades. For example, the implication of the current study could be that there needs to be an examination of the sustainability of the model of training for nurses and midwives, including the separate routes of entry at undergraduate level.

Integrated workforce planning is a dynamic ongoing process which must take account of factors such as economic and social developments, skill mix, budgetary constraints, and policy initiatives. It has been identified as one of the key supports for public service reform by the OECD and is one of the matters to be progressed as part of reforming how the public sector does its business under the Transforming Public Service programme.

The study has attempted to take an economy wide approach including the private sector to assess the total demand for the occupations. The report outlines a number of workforce projections for some grades. For some occupations, there are forecasted shortages while others show an excess supply. The baseline forecasts are based on the assumption that the existing pattern of service delivery or the same occupation density per population continues. The report is also based on domestic supply only. For most occupations FÁS also developed other projections by varying these assumptions. The report can be used as a tool to be used for future workforce planning projections.

The list of occupations in the study is outlined below. The forecasting was undertaken for the period of 2008-2020. Immigration was set to zero to assess the extent to which the Irish education and training system can meet the estimated demand.

Workforce planning analysis is complex as Ireland is part of the international market for skilled health professions. The Department of Health and Children and the HSE have been proactively tackling workforce planning issues for various professions over the last number of years. The work of FÁS and the Expert Group is invaluable in assisting in the development of a strategic approach to workforce planning given the size of the health sector workforce and the resources involved. It is critical for service provision, for patients and for the taxpayer that the Department and the HSE can plan properly so that there are the right skills available in the right place at the right time.

The Minister commended the Expert Group and the Skills and Labour Market Research Unit of FÁS, who undertook the analysis, for their time and expertise in compiling the study. She added that FÁS and the Expert Group have done an excellent job in analysing the factors influencing supply and demand for the occupations in question and in devising scenarios for future projections.

Healthcare occupations covered by the study

Medical consultants (each speciality) Physiotherapist Social care worker
General practitioner Nurse and Midwife Clinical psychologist
Specialist in public health medicine Health care assistant Medical physicist
Speech and language therapist Home help Radiation therapist


The Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN) advises the Irish Government on current and future skills needs of the economy and on other labour market issues that impact on Ireland’s enterprise and employment growth. It has a central role in ensuring that labour market needs for skilled workers are anticipated and met.

The Expert Group on Future Skills Needs provides advice to Government on skills issues impacting enterprise through:

  • Skills foresight & benchmarking
  • Strategic advice on building skills through education and training
  • Data collection and analysis on demand and supply of skilled labour
  • Influencing and monitoring implementation

Established in 1997, the EGFSN reports to the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the Minister for Education and Science.

Forfás, Ireland’s national policy advisory body for enterprise and science, in conjunction with FÁS, provides the EGFSN with research and secretariat support

The FÁS Skills and Labour Market Research Unit provides the Group with data, analysis and research and manages the National Skills Database. Forfౠprovides the Group with research and secretariat support. The Group’s work programme is managed by the Head of Secretariat based in Forf౮ The EGFSN’s budget comes from the National Training Fund.

The Report is available on the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs website