Hospital overcrowding: Bed shortage could be three times worse by 2030

Pressure on the health service is expected to get worse in the years ahead.
James Wilson
James Wilson

09.51 6 Dec 2023

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Hospital overcrowding: Bed sho...

Hospital overcrowding: Bed shortage could be three times worse by 2030

James Wilson
James Wilson

09.51 6 Dec 2023

Share this article

Ireland’s health service will be 3,000 beds short by 2030 without urgent investment, the ERSI has warned.

New research from the organisation has found that Irish hospitals already have 1,000 fewer beds than they need, with that figure set to grow by 300 every year.

The report warns that the system is unable to meet demand due to a lack of planning for population growth and rising demand for healthcare.


There were 571 admitted patients are waiting for beds in Irish hospitals, this morning alone.

IHCA President Professor Rob Landers said the report underlined an urgent need for more capital investment in the health service.

“It is deeply regrettable that the Budget did not contain the required funding to build and open the 1,500 rapid build additional hospital beds promised for 2023 and 2024 or to progress the four elective hospitals included in the Sláintecare Plan in 2017," he said.

"We’re urging the Government to commit the promised €1 billion capital budget to open these 1,500 beds without delay.”

A worsening problem

Speaking to Newstalk Breakfast, DCU’s Professor Anthony Staines said there is “no doubt” the health service is already suffering from bed shortages. 

“Hospital beds have not kept up with population increases - nor with population ageing,” he said. 

Professor Staines said this was far from the only issue impacting the quality-of-care patients receive and said the delivery of healthcare infrastructure also needs to be improved. 

“One of the things that has held back the development of acute hospital beds is proposals to build new hospitals,” he said. 

We’ve seen that with the Children’s Hospital, which is amazing but we can’t do that again. 

“We can’t have that kind of fiasco of cost overruns and colossal delays again.” 

Capital investment

Aside from building new hospitals, Professor Staines said there is “a lot of other stuff” that could be done to improve services if there was more capital investment. 

“Things like equipment, imaging and new bed spaces in the hospitals,” he said. 

“There’s bed spaces that are not being used as effectively as they could be. 

“We need to invest in innovation; there’s loads of great innovation in the HSE right now.” 

He said there is a “brilliant service” in Donegal that has dramatically redacted admissions for chronic bronchitis and another hospital in the Midlands was reducing admissions for people with heart failure before it shut down. 

“Everything I’ve described is done in the HSE,” he said. 

“We’re just not rolling it out on any kind of scale.” 


Professor Staines said more money should be spent on keeping people healthy, which could be done by prioritising resources for general practice. 

 “We are the only country in wealthy Europe that doesn’t have free access to primary care,” he said. 

“We’re a real outlier on that.” 

In Budget 2024, the Department of Health was allocated €22.5 billion to spend. 

Main image: A healthcare worker and a patient. Picture by: AP Photo/Manu Fernandez. 

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