Article 12: Right to health

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1. The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.

2. The steps to be taken by the States Parties to the present Covenant to achieve the full realization of this right shall include those necessary for:

(a) The provision for the reduction of the stillbirth-rate and of infant mortality and for the healthy development of the child;

(b) The improvement of all aspects of environmental and industrial hygiene;

(c) The prevention, treatment and control of epidemic, endemic, occupational and other diseases;

(d) The creation of conditions which would assure to all medical service and medical attention in the event of sickness.


State Report paragraphs 312-387

The Irish health system is under severe financial pressure. In 2014, Irish national health service, the Health Service Executive (HSE), was allocated €13.1 billion.1 Despite an overall reduction of €3.3 billion since 2008 and coupled with a significant financial deficit, Government plans to achieve additional savings of €619 million in 2014 to achieve further fiscal consolidation.2 The OECD has noted that most of the savings to date have been achieved through cutbacks in wages and fees as well as a nine per cent reduction in the number of health workers.3 The level of health spending in Ireland equates to 8.9 per cent of Gross Domestic Product, less than the OECD average of 9.3 per cent.4 While initial cuts produced greater efficiencies in the health service, continuing austerity measures have resulted in rising waiting lists, fewer public beds and increased costs for patients.5

There has been a significant increase in the ageing population as life expectancy increases to 80.6 years although people in disadvantaged areas continue to have the lowest life expectancy.6 High rates of chronic diseases account for 76 per cent of deaths in Ireland.7 While there have been significant reductions in the mortality rates for cancer patients and those with cardiovascular disease, ‘the mortality burden…remains high and further gains can be made’.8 The Government hopes to reduce the rate of preventable diseases as well as reducing expenditure on ‘the prospect of unaffordable future health costs’ by channelling resources into ‘cost-effective prevention programmes’.9Excessive alcohol use is one example of where the State could maximise its resources to prevent unnecessary deaths and illness as well as achieving greater savings in the long-term. Alcohol abuse is estimated to result in 90 deaths each month in Ireland and in 2010 alone it cost the Exchequer approximately €1.2 billion in hospital in-patient care, GP and associated services and mental health services.10

FLAC urges the Committee to recommend that the State:

  • Target resources at preventative measures to reduce the rate of chronic illnesses and preventable diseases to reduce pressure on the health service.


1 Health Service Executive (2013), National Service Plan 2014, Dublin, HSE, p.2.

2 Health Service Executive (2013), National Service Plan 2014, Dublin, HSE, p.2.

3 Organisation for Co-operation and Economic Development (2014) OECD Health Statistics 2014: How does Ireland compare? Paris: OECD, p.1.

4 Organisation for Co-operation and Economic Development (2014) OECD Health Statistics 2014: How does Ireland compare? Paris: OECD, p.1.

5 S. Thomas, S. Burke & S. Barry, ‘The Irish health-care system and austerity: sharing the pain’, The Lancet, 383 (3), 3 May 2014,


6 Central Statistics Office (2010) Mortality Differentials in Ireland, Cork/Dublin: CSO, p.1.

7 Health Service Executive (2013), National Service Plan 2014, Dublin, Health Service Executive, p.4.

8 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (2013) ‘Prevention and value-for-money in health spending must remain a priority for Ireland, says OECD’ [press release], available at (last accessed 29 September 2014).

9 Department of Health (2013) Healthy Ireland: A framework for improved health and wellbeing 2013-2025, Dublin: Department of Health, pp.11-12.

10 S. Byrne (2010) Costs to Society of Problem Alcohol Use in Ireland, Dublin: Health Service Executive, p.21.