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Ireland. Department of Health. (2012) Health in Ireland: key trends 2012. Dublin: Department of Health.

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Health in Ireland: Key Trends 2012 covers population and health status as well as trends in service provision. It is designed as an easy-to-use reference guide to significant trends in health and health care over the past decade. A number of new tables and graphs have been included on specific topics of importance and/or where new data has been made available. Each section of the booklet has a brief introduction summarising key statistics.

Continuing improvements in health status and life expectancy are evident in the tables and graphs of this booklet. Death rates from all major causes have declined significantly over the period, and life expectancy remains above the EU average. Increased and improved healthcare provision has contributed significantly to these gains. Recent data on expenditure and staffing reflect the effects of continuing economic constraints. The key challenge will be to ensure that scarcer resources are carefully targeted to deliver more efficient and effective ways of providing services. An example of changing practice which is both more beneficial for the patient and more cost-effective can be seen in the acute hospital sector where a gradual decline in inpatient admissions is being more than offset by a rapid rise in daycase treatments.

Examination of trends over a decade also helps to identify the challenges facing health and the health services in the coming years. Issues such as smoking and alcohol consumption present serious problems and have the potential to undermine many of the gains achieved in recent years. The ageing of the population is already occurring and will increasingly impose additional demands on service capacity and the management of chronic conditions. Ensuring that health inequalities are reduced and that access to services is maintained and improved are major aims. In an economic climate where resources will be severely constrained, improved efficiency, effectiveness and equity at all levels of the health services will be essential in successfully managing these demands.

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