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Keywords:

  • horizontal equity;
  • vertical;
  • policy;
  • service provision;
  • needs;
  • public health;
  • nursing;
  • community;
  • Republic of Ireland;
  • funding

Aims.  This paper analyses the policy and conceptual basis of public health nursing service provision in the Republic of Ireland and situates it within an international context. It draws on the principles of horizontal and vertical equity in proposing a new model of public health nursing service provision. It gives the reader an understanding of a model of service delivery underpinned by the principle of vertical equity.

Background issues.  The Public Health Nurse in the Republic of Ireland has a wide remit encompassing primary, secondary and tertiary care at the level of the individual, family and community. The changing sociological and demographic nature of society in Ireland has impacted on a service that has largely remained unchanged since 1966. Since 1997 four review bodies have provided recommendations that are incompatible with each other. There remains a need to find a solution to the overwhelming demands placed on the public health nursing service in the Republic of Ireland.

Key issues.  The public health nursing service goes beyond the provision of a purely clinical nursing service. Communities differ in demography, epidemiology, environment, history, composition, support and most importantly needs. Using three exemplars a new model for the public health nursing service is explicated. This model has as its main focus the needs of the community it serves.

Conclusions.  A service underpinned by the principle of vertical equity can be used to deliver locally based, needs driven public health nursing services. The application of such a model would make the public health nursing service more flexible and responsive to local need. Public health nursing composition and provision must be determined using the principal of vertical equity determined by the needs of the community it serves.