Friday November 27, 2020

"I would like to see a universal healthcare system, based on need, where the two-tier service would no longer exist"

Dr Tom O’Connor, Lecturer in Economics and Integrated Health & Social Care at Cork Institute of Technology on where he would like to see the Irish health service in 10 years time

17th January, 2019

What's your name?

Dr Tom O’Connor

What position do you hold?

I am based at the Department of Applied Social Studies/School of Humanities at Cork Institute of Technology. I am a Lecturer in Economics and Integrated Health & Social Care. My work is guided by the dual ethos within CIT of ‘Rísam Uile’, a striving to achieve everything, and also its expressed commitment to reaching out to wider communities. This dual focus is applied to the efforts we make to have our graduates, at all levels, achieve their chosen careers, conduct valuable research & development and to succeed in having personally fulfilled lives. My principal student cohort are students who are studying programmes in social care at CIT. Our work at CIT also attempts to fulfil its second task of fostering a deep and meaningful engagement with wider local communities and communities of interest. Both my lecturing and research are deeply embedded within this role. My research and teaching are both focused on examining possible solutions to improve quality of life within various health and social care populations, including older people, those with health challenges and with disabilities, and are guided by the principles of effectiveness, fairness, efficiency and equality.

What are your day to day responsibilities?

My daily responsibilities are heavily focused on teaching a wide number of modules, all of which cross-disciplinary. The cross-disciplinary methodology I use within modules and my research span the very wide but holistically-linked areas of: political economy, developmental welfare states, health policy, social policy, mental health, disability and integrated care. This cross-disciplinary focus fits well with my supervision of postgraduate students, who variously might be examining areas such as integrated care pathways for older people, the effectiveness of mental health services or housing solutions. Other daily responsibilities include co-ordination roles at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels, research, writing and scholarship, organising speaking events consisting of key visiting researchers and speakers and sometimes applying for research funding.

What is your professional background?

My primary and Master’s degrees are in economics and sociology. My PhD is cross-disciplinary, spanning economics, sociology and statistics. I have lecturing for 26 years, having started at University College Cork from 1993-2001 and at Cork Institute of Technology since 2001. I have previously received a large national research award from the National Academy for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning. A key area of interest of mine for the past 12 years has been the area of Integrated Care. In 2013, I edited a book entitled: Integrate Care for Ireland in an International Context: Challenges for Policy, Institutions and Specific Service-User Needs.

Tell us something very few people know about you?

I have been a keen (and half decent) singer at music sessions over the years, singing Christy Moore songs and good feedback for my rendition of a big favourite of mine, ‘Roll Back the Clouds’ by Christy Hennessy!

You are speaking at the 2019 Health Summit. What are you speaking about?

I’ll be speaking on a panel discussion about: ‘What will Ireland’s healthcare system look like in 10 years’ time’?

What challenges do you see for the healthcare sector in Ireland?

I see the biggest challenges in the following areas: developing a sustainable model for the financing of healthcare; making integrated care a reality in practice; developing clear pathways across for health, social care and public health promotion within a new integrated care landscape; ending the scandal of hospital trolleys; enhancing primary and community care and ending healthcare waiting lists.

Where would you like to see the health service in 10 years time?

In 10 years, I would like to see a universal healthcare system, based on need, where the two-tier service would no longer exist. I’d would like to see primary and community care developed greatly, more diagnostics and other facilities at the primary care level with a consequent reduction in need within secondary and tertiary hospital. I’d like to see a new integrated care system in place, fostering a real, effective, and efficient system, with strongly communicative linkages between primary and community care teams and to secondary/tertiary care.

Dr Tom O’Connor is speaking at the 15th national Health Summit on February 7, 2019 at Croke Park. Full details are available at

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