Hospital services in Ireland
What types of hospitals are available in Ireland?
There are 3 different types of hospitals in Ireland:
- Public hospitals run by the State through the Health Service Executive
- Voluntary public hospitals, are mainly state-funded but are sometimes owned by private bodies. For example, religious orders. Other voluntary public hospitals are run by boards often appointed by the Minister for Health
- Private hospitals receive no state funding
How to get treatment in a hospital in Ireland
You will need a letter of referral from your GP (family doctor) if you need hospital treatment.
You can go to the Emergency Departments (also called Accident and Emergency) in most general hospitals and some specialist hospitals without a letter of referral, but you may be charged for your visit.
Public hospital patients
If you are a public patient you do not have to pay for consultants' services and you do not have a choice of consultants.
In many areas, there can be waiting lists for non-emergency services. You can check information on waiting times for in-patient treatment.
You can get public health services in HSE hospitals and in public voluntary hospitals. Most of these hospitals also provide private health care but they must clearly distinguish between public and private hospital beds.
If you choose to be a private patient in a public hospital, you become the private patient of the consultant treating you and you must pay for all the treatments and services you get from them. There is also a set daily charge for private patients in public hospitals.
Private hospitals can set their own charges for patients. Private health insurance may cover some or all of the cost.
What services can I get in a hospital?
If you are seriously ill or injured you can go to an acute hospital for diagnoses, treatment and care. Acute hospital services are in HSE hospitals, public voluntary hospitals and private hospitals. Some hospitals are specialist, for example, maternity or psychiatric hospitals, while others are general.
General, regional and local hospitals
You can get treatment for many issues at large general and regional hospitals. Smaller local hospitals may not be able to cater for all illnesses and treatments and you may be transferred to a larger hospital or to a specialist hospital. You can find the location and contact details of your local hospital.
Inpatient or day-case
If you are getting planned (scheduled) care or emergency (unscheduled) care, this is known as inpatient care. This includes care needing an overnight stay the hospital as well as care provided through the day case services.
If you have an out-patient appointment, you will not be staying overnight in the hospital. Your family doctor can refer you for a planned appointment in an out-patients department of a public hospital. This will be with a consultant or their team or for diagnostic assessments (for example, x-rays, laboratory tests, physiotherapy).
If you have serious injuries or life-threatening emergencies, you can go to the Emergency Department (sometimes called Accident and Emergency Department). This is usually as an out-patient. They are open 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Find your local Emergency Department.
Phone 112 or 999 if you need urgent medical help or you're not sure what to do.
Minor injury unit
If you have a minor injury, check if your local minor injury unit may be able treat you. There is a €75 charge to attend an injury unit. There is no charge for patients with a medical card, or a medical or GP referral letter.
Minor injuries are unlikely to require admission to a hospital. You can check where the nearest minor injury unit is to you.
You can read about hospital charges in Ireland and who is exempt from charges.
Deaf & hard of hearing in hospital
If you are Deaf or hard of hearing, you are entitled to interpretation services in public hospitals in Ireland. You should tell the hospital that you are Deaf or hard of hearing before your visit so they can arrange this. Further information regarding these services is available from the Director of Disability Services at your Local Health Office.