Lack of 'effective' care causing almost 4,000 early deaths each year
A lack of timely and effective healthcare is causing the early deaths of 3,800 people in Ireland annually from conditions such as heart disease, stroke and cancer, an EU report has warned.
The rate of avoidable premature death is lower than the European average, but much higher than in France, Spain and Italy.
It is seen in cancers of the bowel and breast, in particular.
Spending on health per head of population in Ireland is the fourth highest in the EU.
But just 70pc of this is coming from the Exchequer, and the rest is from people's own pockets in the shape of health insurance and fees.
It means the private sector plays a much bigger role in financing health care than in other countries.
The report from the European Commission profiles the health of member states and measures how they compare.
Ireland is now the only country in Europe that does not offer its citizens free GP care.
This is despite a pledge by Health Minister Simon Harris and the Government to roll out free GP care on a phased basis.
The report warns that in Ireland, the ageing population and growing number of people with long-term conditions like diabetes, need to be better managed to avoid unnecessary hospitalisations.
It highlights our long hospital waiting lists and the low availability of hospital beds.
In Ireland, 95pc of beds are occupied throughout the year compared to the EU average of 77pc, leading to brimming A&Es.
Life expectancy in Ireland stands at 81.5 years. This is an increase of five years since 2000.
But nine EU nations still live longer than us, with the Spanish and Italians enjoying the best life expectancies.
When it comes to respiratory diseases, Ireland is second only to the UK for the highest death rate.
Throwing light on our health behaviours, the report reveals that 18pc of people in Ireland describe themselves as obese, compared to a European average of 15pc.
However, when it is externally measured, the rate is nearer 23pc.
It confirmed, Ireland is no longer the booziest country in Europe, but we are still drinking more than the European average.
In the year 2000 Irish people were drinking 14.2 litres of pure alcohol per adult annually, putting us top of the consumption league, a new EU report has revealed.
At that stage we were consuming more than three litres more than the EU average.
That fell to 10.9 litres in 2015 but it is still one litre more than the average European.
That's equivalent to around 40 litres of vodka, 116 bottles of wine or 440 pints of beer per adult.
The report warns there is still a major challenge in reducing binge drinking among adults in Ireland. In 2015 nearly one third of adults in Ireland admitted binge drinking, higher than more other European countries.