Thousands more doctors, nurses, midwives and other specialists will be needed in a major recruitment for the health service to tackle waiting lists and care for surging numbers of elderly patients.
The Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) today identifies potential blackspots in cover, as the population is set to grow substantially to 5.4 million, with people set to live longer.
Essential services including hospital care for the elderly, efforts to slash waiting lists, and implementing the Sláintecare plan, will require a significant recruitment drive.
The research, funded by the HSE, focuses on acute public hospitals’ workforce requirements across the country between 2019 and 2035.
Up to 15,500 extra workers will be needed in the coming years, the ESRI warns.
The study uses census data to estimate where population growth will happen and gives a first look at the system’s biggest vulnerabilities and staffing shortages. Hiring of consultants, nurses, midwives, healthcare assistants, dietitians, occupational therapists and social workers will all have to be stepped up.
Large projected increases in older age groups are identified as the dominant driver of underlying service demand and therefore workforce requirements
According to the report, the number of people aged 85 and older will more than double as the population increases to 5.4 million by 2035.
The biggest holes in staffing the health service are noted for regions in the east of the country – but recruitment is needed across the board.
ESRI report author Dr Conor Keegan said: “The findings show that expansion of public acute hospital workforce will be required across all regions and all staff categories examined in this report.”
Overall, the ESRI report estimates that there will be a requirement for an extra 12,418 to 15,491 staff by 2035.
As well as up to 3,236 more medics there will be up to 8,868 nursing and midwifery staff needed nationally.
Up to 3,277 additional healthcare assistants and health and social care assistants are also expected to be required.
“Large projected increases in older age groups are identified as the dominant driver of underlying service demand and therefore workforce requirements,” the report, published today, said.
“In this regard, particularly large relative increases in workforce requirements have been identified for health and social care professions (most notably occupational therapists and speech and language therapists) that are particularly required by older people in hospital.”
The report says current Government plans to substantially increase publicly funded healthcare staff over the coming years takes place in the context of “acknowledged staff shortages and an Irish population that is expected to continue to see strong growth and ageing”.
It predicts that average growth of between 1.7pc and 2.1pc a year of the workforce will be needed to keep up with demand. It says workforce planning will be key to delivering Sláintecare reforms.
HSE national director of human resources Anne Marie Hoey said the findings raise “important considerations” in terms of acute workforce investment, workforce planning and training over the coming years.
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said: “This report makes a key contribution to inform the needs of the health sector for the future in the context of the wider work in strategic workforce planning being undertaken in my department.”