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Delivering Universal Healthcare – 23 developments in health in 2023

21 December 2023 (1)

The Dental Health Foundation welcomes the government press release discussing the 23 developments in health in 2023. In particular we welcome the news that the sale of vaping products is now prohibited to those under the age of 18 and the availability of funding to address the Orthodontic waiting list.

Press Release 

We’re moving closer to universal healthcare, where targeted investment in 2023 has delivered significant progress in terms of capacity and increased access to quality, affordable healthcare.


  1.        Waiting List Action Plan

In 2023 our health service has treated many more patients:

  • 3.6 million outpatient appointments
  • 1.8 million inpatient /daycase procedures
  • 187,000 more patients removed from waiting lists than in 2022

And we’ve reached the target of a 10% reduction in the number of patients exceeding the 10/12 week waiting time. 


  1.        Public Only Consultant Contract

1,250 hospital consultants have signed the new Public only Consultant Contract introduced in March 2023. This will help deliver more care in the evenings and weekends.  


  1.        Expansion of GP care 

500,000 more people became eligible for free GP Care in 2023. All 6- & 7-year-olds and everyone who earns up to the median income qualify for GP Visit Cards.


  1.        Abolition of Public Hospital In-Patient Charges  

Public hospital in-patient charges for adults were abolished in April – saving patients up to €800 per year. 


  1.        Assisted Human Reproduction 

In September publicly funded Assisted Human Reproduction treatment including IVF was made available for the first time in Ireland. Up to 3,000 couples per year will avail of the service through their GP and six regional fertility clinics.


  1.        Workforce

Since 2020 we’ve added 25,239 more healthcare workers, including:

  • 7,510 nurses and midwives
  • 3,881 health and social care professionals
  • 2,859 doctors and dentists


  1.         Home Care

21.5 million home care hours will be provided in 2023 and this is expected to rise to 22 million hours in 2024.


  1.        Free Contraception

The free contraception scheme was extended throughout 2023 and is available to all women aged 17 – 30. Over 170,000 women have availed of it. It will be expanded to women aged 31 on 1 January 2024.


  1.        Eliminating Cervical Cancer 

Ireland is one of the first countries in the world to set 2040 as when we can eliminate cervical cancer – meaning babies born today can reach adulthood where this cancer is gone. The Laura Brennan HPV Vaccine Catch-Up Programme was also expanded during 2023 - offering free HPV vaccines to young women and men who missed out in school. 


  1.      Vaping 

We’ve banned the sale of vaping products to those under the age of 18. Further restrictions on vaping and smoking will be implemented in 2024. We also launched a public consultation on possible further restrictions.  


  1.      Termination of Pregnancy

17 maternity hospitals now provide full termination of pregnancy services – an increase of five this year. The final two maternity units will offer full services in 2024. 


  1.      Safe Access Zones 

The Health (Termination of Pregnancy ToP) (Safe Access Zones) Bill 2023 passed all stages in the Dáil and Second Stage in the Seanad in 2023. This represents a significant step forward in ensuring safe access to services with dignity and privacy.


  1.      Period Poverty 

€814,000 funding for local authorities and NGOs to buy period products and no-cost vending machines, for use in public offices, buildings and facilities launched in November.


  1.      Increasing Student Training Places 

Additional 662 student places provided in the Higher Education Sector on health-related courses in this academic year, including 200 student places across Nursing and Midwifery and Therapy professions in Northern Ireland.


  1.      National Maternity Hospital

Government approved going to tender for the new National Maternity Hospital at Elm Park. Work also got underway on clearing the site with four services at the site to be moved to other areas.  


  1.      Surgical Hubs

2023 saw the announcement of the development of six new ‘Surgical Hubs’. These hubs – in Dublin, Cork, Waterford, Limerick and Galway -  will have an impact on day-case waiting lists in advance of the development of regional elective hospitals.


  1.      Dementia 

Model of Care for Dementia launched in May 2023 with €4.9 million in government funding.


  1.      New Medicines

In December €20 million in funding was announced for new medicines in 2024. This funding is in addition to the record almost €3 billion being spent this year on medicines.  36 medicines were approved in 2023, including 15 new medicines. A further 21 existing medicines were approved for new uses.


  1.      Orthodontics Waiting List Initiative 2023  

€10 million in funding to address orthodontics treatment waiting lists this year.


  1.      National Drugs Strategy 

12,009 people have been treated for problem drug use in 2023 up from 10,769 in 2021.


  1.       Health System Performance Assessment (HSPA) platform

HSPA platform launched in June 2023 to improve accountability and transparency of the health service.


  1.      National Strategy for Accelerating Genetic and Genomic Medicine in Ireland 

In October €2.7 million was allocated to establish a National Office for Genetics and Genomics.


  1.      Healthy Ireland 

In 2023 a further €1 million in additional funding has been allocated to further support home Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) testing.