A new system of health accounts, which compares health spending to population rather than economic activity, shows that Ireland spends less than many of its peers, including Denmark, Belgium, Austria and the Netherlands.
And when our health expenditure is broken down into its component parts, none stands out as being abnormally high by international standards. In particular, our spending on health administration is not high.
New research from the union-backed Nevin Economic Research Institute (NERI) says the figures are significant because major decisions – including around pay and recruitment – have been made on the basis of old spending comparisons with GDP or GNI. Moreover the public and media narrative regarding health spending, and the health service more broadly, has been informed by these statistics.
Historically, the EU commission’s insistence on measuring health expenditure as a proportion of Ireland’s gross national income for the purposes of international comparison has made it look out of line with spending in comparable nations.
Reacting to the research findings, Eamonn Donnelly of Fórsa’s Health and Welfare Division said: “The populist narrative that we overspend on the health sector in Ireland is connected to the myth that our health sector has too many administrators. Neither the facts nor figures support these claims. The Sláintecare report rightly identifies the need to increase health spending to achieve the universally-accessible, single-tier health system which our citizens deserve.”
Only about 15% of Ireland’s health workers are clerical and admin staff, and most of them work in the two lowest paid grades. The proportion of admin staff has been constant over the past decade.
“The vast majority of admin staff work directly with patients and the public, or provide direct support to doctors, nurses and other health professionals,” said Donnelly.