The system for healthcare in Ireland is divided into two tiers: public and private. While everyone living in Dublin is well served with hospitals and local health services, the system can be difficult to navigate.

Here, we cover the basics of using and accessing Dublin’s health services.

Public healthcare

Ireland’s public healthcare system offers world-class care, partly funded by the Government.

Dublin is home to 14 public hospitals, some of which specialise in the likes of cancer services, children’s healthcare and maternity care. Some of these hospitals also have emergency departments which are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. These include:

In an emergency, you can also contact the national ambulance service by calling 999 or 112. You can find out more in our guide to Ireland’s essential emergency numbers and helplines.

Public healthcare in Ireland for non-citizens

If you are ‘ordinarily resident’ in Ireland, you can access a range of public health services that are free of charge or subsidised by the Irish Health Service Executive. You are ordinarily resident in Ireland if you have been living here for at least one year – or if you intend to live here for at least one year.

Anyone who comes to Ireland to live, work or retire are likely to fall into this category. However, some non-EU citizens may need to purchase private health insurance as part of their visa requirements. This is relevant to non-EU students coming to Ireland to attend university, for example.

Short-term visitors aren’t entitled to free or subsidised public healthcare either. They generally have to pay for these services. Although exceptions are made in cases of hardship. Visitors can include tourists and business travellers who intend to stay in Ireland for less than a year.

Entitlement to public healthcare in Ireland is usually based on residency, rather than taxes paid or nationality. However, there are some specific rules for people coming to Dublin from the UK and the EEA.

Healthcare for UK citizens

Because of the Common Travel Area between Ireland and Britain, UK citizens who live, work or visit Ireland all have the same access to healthcare as someone who is resident in Ireland. So, if you fall into this category, make sure to bring evidence of your UK citizenship with you.

Healthcare for EU citizens

If you are a citizen of the EU, the EEA or Switzerland, you are entitled to receive necessary medical care in Ireland’s public healthcare system. So you’ll be looked after if you become ill or have an accident. You’ll be able to see a doctor free of charge. However, you may have to pay for some healthcare services. You won’t gain access to Ireland’s private healthcare system without purchasing insurance either.

European Health Insurance Card holders should bring their cards to Dublin with them. This provides evidence that you are part of the EEA scheme and ensures you get treatment as quickly as possible. Just bring it to your local public hospital or treatment centre.

Medical cards

Medical card holders gain full access to medical services, prescription medicines and hospital care for free. They are issued by the Health Service Executive to residents who meet one of the requirements set out here. If you’re eligible, you can apply online.

If you are coming from an EU member state, it’s a good idea to get in touch with the National Contact Point in your home country. They can clarify your entitlement to free healthcare in Ireland. The HSE also has information on how to apply for other benefits and schemes that can help with healthcare costs here.

It’s also worth noting that you need a PPS number to access public services in Ireland. Find out more details about how to apply for one in our guide on moving to Dublin.

A paramedic pulls a stretcher from an ambulance

Private healthcare in Ireland

While basic health is covered by the HSE, certain health needs are not. Visits to accident and emergency, hospital inpatient care and some medicines include charges. Private health insurance can help you meet these expenses.

Private healthcare providers in Ireland include the VHI, Laya Healthcare, Irish Life, Aviva and HSF. You can compare their plans at the Health Insurance Authority.

It’s also worth noting that people coming to Ireland from a non-EU state may have to purchase private health insurance as part of their Visa conditions. Although some employers will provide private health insurance as part of their benefits package.

Private care at hospitals

In Ireland, public hospitals treat both public and private patients, while private hospitals usually only treat private patients. On admittance to a public hospital, patients can choose whether they want to be treated as a public or private patient by their consultant.

Private hospitals and clinics supply a sixth of the country’s hospital beds and care for 400,000 patients annually. The following private healthcare institutions are located in Dublin:

If you have private health insurance it may cover the cost of treatment at these hospitals. Your insurance provider or the hospital itself will know if you are covered.

Accessing healthcare in non-emergencies

General Practitioners

A General Practitioner – or GP – is a doctor who provides health services to patients at their local office. In some circumstances, they do house calls too.

They are the first port of call for patients seeking non-emergency treatment. They can diagnose common medical conditions and refer patients to hospitals for urgent and specialist treatment.

If you do not have a Medical Card or a GP Visit Card, you will have to pay for this service. The fees for GP services are not set, but a charge of around €50 per visit is typical. You can contact your local surgery directly to find out what the cost of a visit will be. Find a list of nearby GPs here.

Specialist consultants

If your GP thinks you need to see a specialist about a medical issue, they will direct you to a consultant. They may refer you to a private or public consultant, depending on your insurance, your entitlement and your personal preference.

Generally, it takes a lot longer to see consultants through the public healthcare system.

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