Everyone living in Ireland is entitled to free in-patient hospital services in public beds in public and voluntary hospitals. People who do not have medical cards may have to pay hospital charges. In-patient services are institutional services provided for people in hospitals, convalescent homes or homes for people with physical or mental disabilities. Day care is regarded as an in-patient service and you may be charged for it in the same way as if you were in hospital overnight.

Information about hospitals

Public and voluntary hospitals are subject to the Freedom of Information Act, 1997 and the Freedom of Information (Amendment) Act 2003. This means that they are obliged to publish information about their structures, services and practices. You can access personal information about you if records are held by the hospital.


You must be referred for in-patient services by your family doctor (GP), the accident and emergency service of a hospital or an out-patients clinic. Most hospitals have waiting lists for non-emergency procedures. The National Treatment Purchase Fund was set up in Ireland to take public patients who have been waiting longest for procedures in public hospitals off waiting lists. To date, more than 90,000 people have received treatment through the Fund.

The National Treatment Purchase Fund:

  • Aims to reduce waiting times for patients longest on public hospital waiting lists
  • Will arrange and purchase treatment for public patients
  • Will only arrange treatment with the permission of each patient
  • Will arrange treatment in a confidential manner
  • Is committed to assuring and monitoring quality standards in relation to clinical treatment and patient care
  • Is committed to ensuring that your are satisfied with the quality of care and communication your experience under this initiative.

Patients who receive treatment under the NTPF may be treated by:

  • Their current consultant in a private hospital in Ireland
  • Another consultant in a private hospital in Ireland
  • Another consultant in a private hospital in the United Kingdom or another foreign country.

Public beds

Beds in public hospitals are designated as either public beds or private beds. If you are an in-patient in a public bed in a public or voluntary hospital, you are entitled to free maintenance but you may have to pay some hospital charges. You are entitled to free consultant treatment. You do not have the right to choose the consultant who will treat you.

Non residents

If you are not resident in Ireland and you do not belong to any of the groups that are entitled to free services, you have to pay the full economic cost of the bed, whether it is a public bed or a private bed. You also have to pay the consultant. The Health Service Executive Area may waive some or all of these costs in cases of hardship.

Deaf and hard of hearing patients

Deaf and hard of hearing patients are entitled to interpretation services in public hospitals in Ireland. You should notify your public hospital that you are deaf or hard of hearing, in advance of your visit so they can make any necessary arrangements. Further information regarding these services is available from the Director of Disability Services at your Local Health Office.


In-patient charges in public hospitals

You may have to pay a daily charge for maintenance. The charge for in-patient services is €66 per day (1 January 2008), up to a maximum of €660 in a year.

The charge does not apply to the following groups:

  • Medical card holders
  • People receiving treatment for prescribed infectious diseases
  • People who are subject to “long stay” charges
  • Children up to six weeks of age, children suffering from prescribed diseases and disabilities and children referred for treatment from child health clinics and school board examinations
  • People who are entitled to hospital services because of EU Regulations
  • Women receiving maternity services.

In cases of excessive hardship, the HSE may provide the service free of charge.

Private beds in public or voluntary hospitals

If you are in a private bed in a public or voluntary hospital, you must pay for your maintenance at a rate set from time to time. The charges (in addition to the public hospital in-patient charge) from January 2014 are:

Remember, the above charges are additional to the public hospital in-patient charges. You are a private patient of the consultant who is treating you and you must pay for that consultant’s services. You must also pay for the services of any other consultant who is involved in caring for you, e.g., the radiologist, anesthetist, etc.

How to apply

You can obtain a letter of referral from your GP, the accident and emergency department of a hospital or an out-patients clinic.

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