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Pathways to Universal Healthcare

Mapping the Pathways to Universal Healthcare is a three year research programme which aims to provide an excellent evidence base that will inform the strategic direction and implementation of universal healthcare in Ireland. The project is running until March 2018.

Dr Steve Thomas, the Director of the Centre for Health Policy and Management in Trinity College Dublin, is the principal investigator (PI) of the project which is funded by the Irish Health Research Board. Dr Sara Burke is the project co-ordinator, working alongside Dr Thomas, Dr Sarah Barry, Bridget Johnston and Rikke Siersbaek.

The project is a collaboration between the Centre for Health Policy and Management, Trinity College, and staff from the Health Systems Strengthening Office of WHO Europe and the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies.


Ireland is unique among its European counterparts in that, unlike them, we have no universal access to healthcare. Since 2011, both Programmes for Government have committed to the goal of universal healthcare.

The Pathways project will map out a potential pathway or pathways to universal healthcare through the three components of the research project:

  1. Assessing the gap between current Irish health system performance and universal healthcare, using and adapting World Health Organisation concepts;
  2. Evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of different models of universal healthcare and assessing their feasibility of implementation within the current context according to key criteria such as affordability, human resources and complexity of design;
  3. Assessing the organisational challenges of moving to universal healthcare by reviewing the experience of other countries and exploring the current capacity and constraints facing decision makers throughout the system.

As part of the Pathways to Universal Healthcare project, we are participating in a WHO Europe project measuring financial protection (in other words how to protect individuals from financial hardship when they utilise health services) in an Irish context.

Last updated 30 January 2017 by Health Systems Research (Email).