The Institute of Public Health in Ireland were asked to submit a paper on 'Cross-border cooperation on healthcare' for a joint meeting between the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children and the Northern Ireland Assembly Health Committee which took place in Leinster House on 1 March 2012.
Key points from the submission included:
o The Institute of Public Health in Ireland (IPH) is an all-island organisation which promotes cooperation between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland with the aim of improving population health on the island and tackling health inequalities. IPH work is focused on addressing the causes of ill health rather than the design and delivery of treatment services.
o North/South cooperation on health was mandated under the Belfast Agreement in 1998 in five domains, including health promotion. IPH has supported the North South Ministerial Council (NSMC) in respect of the health promotion strand since inception.
o The Department of Health and Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety North-South Feasibility Study (December 2011) states that mutual benefits are most evident from cooperation in the areas of (i) anticipating trends and illnesses in a collective manner (ii) public health issues (iii) specialised services where the population or activity required to sustain the service cannot be met by either jurisdiction alone and (iv) in relation to those areas adjacent to the border.
o The European Directive on Cross-Border Healthcare will be implemented in the next few years which will have implications in relation to patients travelling for healthcare across the Republic of Ireland/Northern Ireland border.
o IPH is supporting the development of new public health strategies in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland which are both due for publication this year.
o There are tangible benefits from cross-border cooperation in the health sector, both in public health and in health service planning and delivery and there are many examples of successful initiatives. However, developments are not occurring in the context of an agreed plan or overall strategic context and tend to be project-based and concentrated in border counties.
o Successful cross-border cooperation requires high level support and integration into departmental policy cycles. The provision of data on an all-island basis supports cross-border cooperation as does the operation of sustainable all-island organisations which can support research, evaluations and programmes.
o In the future, cross-border cooperation in health will be more effective if developed with a strategic planning process intrinsically linked to Departmental priorities.
o North-South cooperation in the areas of alcohol, obesity, tobacco health surveys and rare diseases will be particularly beneficial.