Campaigners across Ireland have begun a fresh drive for a single tax-funded health service covering north and south. Motions in support of this have been passed in the north by three district councils (Derry City and Strabane; Mid-Ulster; and Fermanagh and Omagh). It was narrowly defeated in Belfast City Council by the casting vote of the DUP chairperson.

Similar motions have been passed in Dublin and Sligo in the south, and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions has called for “a public healthcare system free at the point of use, an integrated properly funded health and social care system with a proactive system of public health.” The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation General Secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha has also lent support.

The Lowdown article Beware of the Irish Model of Healthcare has been consistently popular with readers, and the new open letter is appealing for support from any who want to campaign for an alternative.

Open letter

Covid 19 has highlighted the inadequacy of our existing health service. Insufficient hospital bed capacity, too few nurses and healthcare workers, not enough testing and contact tracing, poor regulation in care homes, two separate health services on an island of 6.6 million inhabitants. These are all glaring structural defects, accumulated over decades, that politicians have allowed to continue.

At the start of Covid, measures were taken which would have been unthinkable.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) budget was expanded by €1 billion and the recruitment embargo on nurses and other key staff lifted. Agreements were secured with private hospitals and hotels – at huge cost to the public purse – to secure extra hospital and step-down bed capacity.

If the extension of the public system was considered necessary then, why not now as the pandemic persists?

Why not provide greater bed capacity permanently in the public system to treat immediately the 800,000 people on waiting lists in the South, and 300,000 in the North?

Why not greater step-down facilities or more home care support?

Why not the permanent extension of state support for GP consultations?

Covid has given glimpses of what a comprehensive public health service could look like, and why we need one.

Throwing public money at the private hospitals to access their bed capacity is not the solution. Nor is buying in private for-profit services in the Health and Care Service in the North.

Private healthcare systems are wasteful and inefficient. Where there are more extensive public health systems – like Belgium or Denmark – state spending on healthcare is 10% of GDP, whereas in the United States where private healthcare is the norm, the equivalent figure is 17%.

In the Republic, the health service consists of a ramshackle, opaque and highly inefficient mixture of public spending from our taxes, private spending from insurance payments and out-of-pocket payments (GP and prescription charges).

The part of the health care sector run by religious orders is categorized as ‘not-for-profit’, but actually, like the Bon Secours group, it makes huge profits. Even now the Irish Government is gifting our new National Maternity Hospital, at a cost of upwards of €500 million, to a new private entity, ‘St Vincent’s Holdings CLG’, formerly owned by the Sisters of Charity.

Care homes run by the same religious order, in the midst of a pandemic, are being sold off, residents moved on and staff let go. Profit should not drive healthcare any more than patients paying for it should. Healthcare should be a basic social right that everyone is entitled to.

We are calling for all health and social care to be made accountable in a one- tier system, across this island, to which everyone has free access, and which is funded from general taxation and under public control.   

The campaign for an All-Ireland National Health Service is based upon the following principles:

  • Private hospitals requisitioned at the beginning of the crisis should be nationalized
  • The exclusion of private practice and fees from public hospitals
  • Permanent public sector-only contracts to be offered to new consultants
  • Public ownership and control of voluntary hospitals, including the National Maternity Hospital
  • Reward payments and an enhanced career structure for nurses and health care workers
  • Publicly- funded Primary Care that includes mental health support, physiotherapy, speech therapy etc.
  • An integrated Health and Social Care service
  • A publicly established system to regulate access to and pricing of medicines

To support the campaign send names indicating affiliation (profession, trade union, community group, campaign etc.) to [email protected]. Twitter @campaignAINHS      

Dear Reader,

If you like our content please support our campaigning journalism to protect health care for all. 

Our goal is to inform people, hold our politicians to account and help to build change through evidence based ideas.

Everyone should have access to comprehensive healthcare, but our NHS needs support. You can help us to continue to counter bad policy, battle neglect of the NHS and correct dangerous mis-infomation.

Supporters of the NHS are crucial in sustaining our health service and with your help we will be able to engage more people in securing its future.

Please donate to help support our campaigning NHS research and  journalism.                              


Comments are closed.