Hospital bed shortage to surpass 3,000 by end of decade – ESRI

Hospital Bed Shortage To Surpass 3,000 By End Of Decade – Esri
The ESRI said 300 additional hospital beds are needed each year to keep up with population growth. Photo: PA Images
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Muireann Duffy

The health system is currently unable to keep up with the State's population growth, with the shortage of beds in public hospitals set to surpass 3,000 by 2030.

Research carried out by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) found the State needs 300 additional public hospital beds per year to keep up with population growth and healthcare demand.


In addition to the 300 extra beds per annum, the ESRI estimated that the health service is currently operating at a 1,000-bed deficit.

The institute's Dr Brendan Walsh said the health service's failure to meet demand is down to a lack of planning to provide sufficient hospital capacity going back several years, in addition to issues brought about by the Covid pandemic.

The ESRI noted that despite targets to reduce the number of people on waiting lists, the latest National Treatment Purchase Fund figures show 883,300 people were on some form of hospital waiting list at the end of October.

"This indicates that more patients are being added to waiting lists than are being taken off, because demand for care is significantly increasing and hospital capacity is insufficient," the ESRI said.


Dr Walsh said while there has been significant investment in the provision of hospital beds in recent years, "we’re starting from a very low base, and the level of investment has slowed down quite a bit".

"We are now entering a territory where we’re going to have issues regarding strains in the hospital sector and bed deficits for years to come.

"We must act quickly and move toward community care where it’s appropriate, but we must also understand that there are deficits in our hospital system and try to fill those deficits as quickly as possible," he added.

The research was released as part of the Irish Hospital Consulants Association's 'Care Can't Wait' campaign.


IHCA president, Professor Rob Launders, noted: "While the Government planned to open 261 acute beds in 2023, only 162 (62 per cent) of these were additional beds.

"This level of bed expansion is less than provided for in the National Development Plans, which averages 260 additional beds per annum."

Prof Landers added it is "deeply regrettable" that Budget 2024 did not include funding needed to provide 1,500 rapid-build hospital beds promised for this year, or four elective hospitals which were included in the Sláintecare plan for 2017.

"We’re urging the Government to commit the promised €1 billion capital budget to open these 1,500 beds without delay," he said.

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