'Irish healthcare standards on the rise'

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European health experts today revealed standards in Ireland's healthcare system have been steadily improving over the last three years.

The Euro Health Consumer Index (EHCI) ranked the service 13th out of 33 other European countries - up two places on last year.

Authors said the Irish health service scored 701 out of a possible 1,000 points and has been climbing in the EHCI.

The Netherlands topped the survey with 875 points.

"The creation of the Health Service Executive (HSE) was obviously a much-needed reform," the report found.

Ireland has jumped 15 places since the HSE's health transformation programme started in 2006 - when it was ranked 28th out of 29 European countries surveyed.

Professor Brendan Drumm, HSE chief executive, said health care staff should be pleased.

"This year's ranking shows that our modernisation programme is working," said Prof Drumm.

"As we continue to focus on more effective ways of working we expect that our ranking will continue to improve."

The EHCI has become a measurement standard for European healthcare, judging six areas key to the health consumer. They include patients' rights and information, e-Health, waiting times for treatment, treatment outcomes, range and reach of services provided and access to medication.

The results are compiled from public statistics, patient polls and independent research by the founders, Brussels-based think tank Health Consumer Powerhouse.

In seven health outcome measures Ireland scored top marks in four of them: infant death per 1,000; cancer 5-year survival; preventable years of life lost per 100,000 in the 0-69 group; and percentage of diabetic population of patients with HbA1c levels above 7.

Prof Drumm added: "I am particularly pleased that we are making significant improvement in the health outcomes category which corresponds with the data that shows people in Ireland are living longer."

Elsewhere, the data showed that since 2006 many waiting times in Ireland have been declining.

However Ireland performs poorest in e-health - the electronic transfer of medical data between professionals, prescriptions, and lab tests electronically to patient - which the HSE said it has recognised requires improvement, development and investment.

Authors said there is general improvement among most healthcare systems, with examples of reform making impact in the Netherlands, Ireland and the Czech Republic.

Elsewhere it found continuous declines in Spain, Portugal and Greece and said large parts of Eastern and Central Europe seem to be affected by the financial crisis.