Healthcare played a major role in the outcome of GE16, for better or worse. The electorate responded with clear discontent to a politically controlled healthcare system, the lack of joined-up thinking in services, the failure to adequately resource primary care, the long Emergency Department waits, the human indignity of patients waiting interminably on trolleys, cancelled operations and unacceptable Out-Patient Department waiting lists.
The eventual post-election Programme for Government will offer us a unique opportunity to redeem and transform the landscape for health reform. With such a divided electoral result, differing and competing health priorities by all the parties, and no consensus on how to improve our fragmented health system, there is a need to consider a new approach to health care.
Several truths emerged during GE16:
1. Health reform driven by the five-year electoral cycle cannot deliver sustainable or equitable change.
2. For any society recovering from a major economic crash, Health is Wealth. It should be a national priority, like education and employment.
3. The current hospital-centred model for Emergency Department and Out-Patient care has failed.
4. A properly resourced GP-led primary care system can transform integrated care and keep many patients away from hospitals. New ways of delivering this care are needed.
5. True partnership between GPs and hospitals should be supported and resourced by the state.
6. A shared vision for how healthcare is developed and delivered for the next generation is required. A ten-year consensus plan is needed for health – one that is driven by medical need, not expediency.
Such a consensus can only be achieved by involving all the political parties, representative bodies, including the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP), patients and stakeholders, to create a plan for health that is independent of the electoral cycle and has a reasonable time frame to succeed.
Such a negotiated consensus by all the parties for a 10-year plan would take politics out of health and finally put the patient first. It would create direction and stability similar to the famous Tallaght Strategy of 1987, when our body politic successfully put the country first ahead of political gain during a period of economic and social upheaval. The NAGP, representing more than 1,500 GPs, therefore calls for a 10-year Tallaght Strategy for Health, and commits to playing its full part in any negotiations.
The GE16 outcome demands that we as a society prioritise health, put our patients first, treat health as wealth, end the constraints of vested interests, work together as equals to take politics permanently out of health and replace it with hope, direction and a shared mission to succeed. In this Centenary of 1916 every patient and citizen of Ireland would surely vote for that.
The NAGP will host three regional public meetings to discuss their proposal for a Tallaght Strategy for Health. Find out more about these meetings