Health campaigners come together to demand health and social care reform

 Health Reform Alliance launch
The Asthma Society of Ireland joined a number of other Ireland’s leading health charities, campaigners and academics today to launch the Health Reform Alliance, setting out a charter of five core principles that include a call for a universal, publicly funded, healthcare system.  
 

The current members of the alliance are the Adelaide Health Foundation, Age Action, Alzheimer Society of Ireland, Asthma Society of Ireland, Irish Cancer Society, Irish Heart Foundation and the Samaritans.

"The Asthma Society is delighted to be involved with the Health Reform Alliance as it is a unique gathering of leading health charities and academics who have one desire which is to bring about meaningful and effective reform of the health service.  From our perspective the Health and Social Care system is not delivering a satisfactory service for people with asthma.  For instance, as per the 2011 HSE approved National Clinical Programme everyone with asthma is meant to receive one free annual review of their asthma with their GP.  Currently, only those children under six can avail of this review.  The frustrating thing is that the plans are in place to solve many of the problems in the system but they are rarely implemented or acted upon fully.  One of the contributing factors for this is the lack of an overall vision for the Health Service in Ireland and it is the hope of the HRA to kick start this conversation which will benefit all patients using our Health and Social Care systems.”  Kevin Kelly, Advocacy Manager.
 

Rachel Wright, Chairperson of the Health Reform Alliance, said: “Ireland’s health and social care system is in crisis. It simply cannot meet the needs of the hundreds of thousands of people across Ireland who depend on it every day. Cuts in funding since the economic crisis have further restricted access to health services as hospital beds are closed, staff numbers are down and waiting lists grow ever longer. We must set out a new vision for our health service, one that treats everyone equally and guarantees our right to quality health and social care.”

 
Five key principles
Ahead of this year’s General Election the Health Reform Alliance is calling on political parties to set out their vision for healthcare in Ireland, one which the alliance says should be based on its five key principles:
 
  • The health and social care system treats everyone equally.  
  • The health and social care system is focused on the needs of all social groups in society. 
  • People have an entitlement to health and social care, free at the point of access. 
  • The different elements of the health and social care system work together and are connected. 
  • The health and social care system is a universal, publicly funded system.
 
Ms Wright continued: “Our healthcare system is unfair, unequal and inefficient. Public patients are deprived of timely access to GPs and treatment, with some waiting months for diagnosis of life-limiting or threatening illnesses.
Many of the less-well off in our society are condemned to die sooner by a two-tier system built on a principle of inequality. With plans for universal health insurance scrapped, it’s now time for political parties to refocus on the core question of how we can move forward and provide quality health and social care for everybody in Irish society. This needs to be at the heart of the debate in the coming election. It needs to be central to the decision voters make on polling day.”
 
Wider debate
The alliance stressed the need to broaden out the debate on healthcare in Ireland, warning that it needed to focus on meeting the needs of everyone who uses our healthcare system and who relies on it. 
 
Dr Catherine Darker, Adelaide Assistant Professor of Health Services, said: “All of us must join in the debate about how we provide health and social care. It can’t simply be left to policymakers and economists. Our health and social care system is often a matter of life and death. 
Everyone; patients, family members and the public, health workers and care providers, must be involved. However, there is a particular need for groups marginalised by our health service like Travellers or migrants, or those with specific needs like, older people or people with mental health problems or intellectual or physical disabilities, to have their voices heard.” 
 
In the coming weeks the alliance hopes to engage with the various political parties ahead of a major conference on healthcare reform planned for May.
 
For more information please check the Alliance's website at www.healthreformalliance.ie