Press Release

Minister Martin signals progress on new Health Strategy

The Minister for Health and Children, Mr. Micheál Martin TD, today (3rd April 2001) outlined progress on the preparation of his new Health Strategy. The aim of the Strategy is to provide improved health status and the development, reform and modernisation of health and personal social services over the next 5 to 7 years. The new Strategy is planned for completion by mid-year. Preparation of the Strategy includes a highly participative consultation process to ensure everyone has an opportunity to contribute views on the future plans.

It is intended that the new Strategy will build on the current Health Strategy, Shaping a Healthier Future (1994) which was underpinned by three principles; equity, quality of services and accountability. The new Strategy will take a fresh look at fundamental aspects of the health system, building on the progress made over the last seven years. It is likely to emphasise a more people centered/consumer oriented system.

Aims/Themes

The Minister stated: “The Government’s aim is to set out a clear reform agenda for our health services. This agenda will include working towards the provision of a high quality, equitable and accessible health care service. Achieving this aim will involve a radical and innovative examination of our current services and areas where reform and modernisation need to take place.”

The key themes of the new Strategy are expected to include inequalities in health, access to services, overall equity issues in the health system affecting eligibility and the public private mix, health promotion/population health, quality, information systems, e-health and human resource issues.

Development of Strategy

A number of groups are being established to support and assist in the development of the Strategy. Lead responsibility for production of the Strategy is being taken by a Steering Group chaired by the Department of Health & Children’s Secretary General. This Group comprises the Department’s Management Advisory Committee and a number of Health Board/Regional Authority Chief Executive Officers. A Project Team has been established to produce the Strategy document under the overall leadership of the Steering Group. The Team includes representatives of the Department of Health and Children and of the Health Board/Regional Authority.

Wide Participation

The Minister stated: “I am pleased that the development of this new Strategy incorporates an open and highly participative consultation process. It involves representatives of key stakeholders in the health services, including health professionals and other staff groups, management and patient/client advocacy groups. I have invited them and their organisations to join a Consultative Forum which will provide advice to the Steering Group. Also, I am delighted that Dr Danny O’Hare, former President of Dublin City University, has agreed to chair the Forum. The Forum’s first meeting is scheduled to take place on 23rd April 2001”.

It had been planned to hold the inaugural meeting of the Forum last month but restrictions on travel due to Foot and Mouth disease resulted in it and other events being rescheduled. However, work by the Forum’s sub-groups has already begun in advance of the rescheduled plenary meeting.

Other Consultations

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.

In recognition of the cross-sectoral issues impacting on health, an Inter-Departmental Group is also planned to promote cross-departmental linkages (e.g. the Departments of Finance; Environment and Local Government; Education and Science; Enterprise, Trade and Employment; and Social, Community and Family Affairs).

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.

Concluding the Minister said “This is the first time that such a wide-ranging consultative process has been set up to ensure people have an opportunity to state their views, good and bad, on this country’s health service. I hope that everyone will take this opportunity and ultimately help develop a better service for us all. One of my goals is to put in place a people centered health system.”