Press Release

New Health Strategy to focus on people, quality, fairness

An Taoiseach, an Tanaiste and the Minister for Health and Children today, 26 November 2001, launched Quality and Fairness, a new Health Strategy for the next seven to ten years. The new Strategy was described by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, T.D., as a programme of investment and reform, starting immediately and stretching over the next decade.

In the short term, the Strategy provides the largest bed capacity expansion in the history of the health service. 650 new beds will come onstream in the next twelve months, all designated for public patients.

A new Treatment Purchase Fund will buy treatment for public patients waiting more than three months from initial referral, so that:

  • By the end of 2002, no adult will wait more than 12 months, no child more than 6, for treatment
  • By the end of 2003, no adult will wait more than 6 months, no child more than 3.
  • By the end of 2004, no public patient will wait more than 3 months.

People with disabilities will also gain from the immediate measures in the Strategy, with the addition of significant day care places, respite care places and residential capacity. The number of GP co-operatives will expand during 2002. This is a key move in wider Primary Care plans that will be published in detail on Wednesday.

The new Strategy, based on four principles: Equity, People-centredness, Quality and Accountability, includes measures to ensure fair access to services.

“Up to now, parents of a child with a disability had to find their way through the services available for their child,” Minister Micheál Martin said today. “It´s been like trying to link up islands of service. In future, there will be Key Workers in every health board for children with disabilities, to link the islands of service for the child and the child’s parents.”

The ageing of Ireland is central to the Strategy. Older people have been worst affected by long waiting lists for procedures that could contribute to their independence and overall well-being. The Stategy cuts those waiting lists and shortens the time between referral and treatment.

The Strategy plans the recruitment of a multi-disciplinary range of staff to develop primary care services for older people, including, over time:

  • 7,000 additional day centre places
  • Increased funding for aids and appliances in people´s homes
  • 1,370 additional assessment and rehabilitation beds
  • Additional geriatricians in the acute geriatric medical services
  • 600 additional day places covering specialist areas like falls, osteoporosis treatment, fracture prevention, Parkinson’s Disease, stroke prevention, heart failure and continence promotion clinics.


The Strategy´s first co-ordinated Action Plan on Age will be developed by the Department of Health and Children in conjunction with the Departments of the Environment and Local Government, Social, Community and Family Affairs, and Public Enterprise.

“Just as Key Workers will be appointed for People with Disabilities, Key Workers will be put in place to ensure ´joined-up´ services for older people,” said the Minister.

Stressing that the voice of the patient must be listened to, the Minister said that one outcome of the Strategy was an abolition of the Outpatient system where patients were given an ´appointment´ at 9 o’clock, but not seen until 12. Outpatient clinics, from next year, must provide patients with real appointment times.

Coming out of this Strategy will be a statutory Complaints procedure, so that patients have a clear way to have complaints formally dealt with, and an extension of the role of the Ombudsman to cover voluntary hospitals and other areas within the health service.

A new National Hospitals Agency will be established, to oversee the re-configuration of the hospital system. An independent Health Information and Quality Authority will be established before the end of next year to drive quality right throughout the system.

As part of wide-ranging organisational reform, an independent review of the working of the Department of Health and Children will be complete by June of next year, and a new organisational structure for the Department will follow.

Manpower planning will be upgraded.

“That means educating more professionals, from doctors and nurses right through to speech and language therapists and physiotherapists,” said the Minister, who went on to predict that, in five years´ time, we will no longer have the shortages in crucial disciplines which are currently holding back the development of much-needed services.

At the launch of the Strategy, the Minister stressed that a breakdown of the actions needed to make the Strategy a reality is included in the document. 121 specific individual actions are promised, and, wherever possible, a deadline for delivery of that action is provided.

“It says to the Irish people, all of whom, in one way or another, are affected by the health service: this is do-able. This is deliverable. This will effect changes for the better – changes you will be able to see and measure over the coming years. The publication of this Health Strategy marks the point from which a good health service developed into a great health service, the point at which the system became unequivocally people-centred, the point where a Government committed to equity, accountability, fairness and people-centredness embedded these principles in the way we plan and deliver Ireland’s health services,” concluded the Minister.

Minister´s Speech on launch of Health Strategy