Towards 2026: A vision for patients, hospitals and doctors

What do we want our healthcare system to be like in 2026?

Towards 2026 was a policy forum established by the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland in 2016 and tasked with developing a collective vision for what acute hospital care should look like in 2026.

Through constructive, patient-focused discussions, our forum members listened to the voice of experience - the experiences of patients, workers on the frontline of healthcare, government, allied health professions, the public sector and academia.

The culmination of these discussions was Towards 2026 – A future Direction for Irish Healthcare, launched 28 March 2017.

This expert report presents a vision for patient-centred healthcare in Ireland. It calls for a radical change that requires building health services around patients, including locally and at a community level.

Towards 2026 was chaired by Dr Tom Keane, former Director of the National Cancer Control Programme.

Read the full report: Towards 2026 - A future direction for Irish healthcare

Published 28 March 2017

Towards 2026 is about understanding the future needs of patients, highlighting the gaps in current healthcare services and clarifying the new role of the doctor in a more responsive and dynamic healthcare system


Why do we need to take action?

The challenges facing our healthcare system demand strong leadership and radical thinking from all stakeholders.

We are concerned about the serious impact our fragmented healthcare system is having on patients and on those who deliver care.

Our ageing population and increasing rates of chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease pose significant challenges for hospitals and the healthcare system. 

We need a new model of healthcare - one that is focused on health, wellbeing and disease prevention. This change of focus is essential so that we can address the ever-increasing demands for healthcare, which threatens the economic sustainability of the health system.

There is a clear need for consensus on a health agenda in order to develop a proper functioning and sustainable health system.

Putting the patient at the centre of how services are designed, organised and delivered is what the Irish public want and deserve. This is the resounding message from the patients and carers, health professionals, policy specialists and hospital managers who have shaped this vision for the delivery of future healthcare.

Dr Tom Keane

Chair, Towards 2026 Policy Forum

Our approach

We held a series of facilitated workshops with patients and healthcare experts to discuss a number of predefined critical questions on patients, hospitals and doctors in 2026.

Our final report contains 12 recommendations based on strong themes which emerged from the workshops. These recommendations address

  • Health policy
  • Health, wellbeing and prevention
  • Patient empowerment
  • Prioritisation and funding
  • Governance
  • Patient Pathways
  • Workforce Planning
  • Training
  • Doctor-patient relationship

There have been many expert reports over the years that pointed to a direction that would ensure that the health system worked more efficiently for patients but none have been implemented. This failure to implement radical reforms is sustaining the current crisis-ridden system that is struggling to meet the demands of those requiring healthcare and frustrating and potentially harming patients in a way that is utterly unacceptable.

Dr Tom Keane

Chair, Towards 2026 Policy Forum

I am particularly pleased that this report represents the views of patients and carers, health professionals from all disciplines, hospital management and policy makers. This, I believe, has resulted in a highly representative report that demonstrates the level of consensus that exists within the health services for the change we advocate.

Professor Frank Murray

President, Royal College of Physicians of Ireland

View a list of Towards 2026 policy forum members

We are proud to have a diverse membership


The main Towards 2026 report, launched in March of this year, described the major deficits and challenges in the current health system, and included key recommendations to address those deficits and challenges at a system level.

This supplemental report describes in more detail the kind of health system we should be aspiring towards in 2026. The content of the report reflects the contributions made by participants at various workshops held in RCPI in 2016.

Thank you to all those who contributed both time and expertise to the Towards 2026 process and to this report.

Towards 2026 Supplementary Report

Yvonne McCahill

Press Officer, Communications Department

Tel: +353 1 8639 627 | Mobile 086 7723056

For general press enquiries or if you want to speak to a trusted medical expert, contact Yvonne in our Communications Department.