A health economist has warned against trying to establish an entirely single-tier system for health services.

Dr Brian Turner from University College Cork said that while it was a noble aspiration to establish a single-tier service, he did not think this was achievable given that the private health insurance market and the private hospital system are both well established.

Speaking at the Oireachtas Committee on the Future of Healthcare, Dr Turner said that their ten-year plan for the future of healthcare should focus on trying to disentangle this overlap between public and private funding and delivery.

He also recommended raising the income thresholds for GP visit cards, as the cost of visit at over €50 was a barrier for those on lower incomes.

The Irish health system, like many others around the world, was not equipped to deal with the ageing population and the increases in chronic illness, he warned.

"The Irish health system never fully recovered from the cutbacks in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and this is affecting our ability to meet the health needs of our current population, let alone provide for the anticipated increase in demand resulting from our growing and ageing population," he said.

He stressed while the solutions were not all about money, a significant increase in funding was needed.

"Significant investment will also be needed in our hospital system, which still has fewer beds than it did in 1980, despite a significant increase and ageing of the population over that time", he added.

Minister criticised over judicial appointments bill

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil's justice spokesman Jim O'Callaghan has sharply criticised the Government's proposed bill on judicial appointments, telling Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald that she had "adopted hook line and sinker" the language of Minister for Transport Shane Ross.

The minister is before the Oireachtas Justice Committee, which is discussing the proposed Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2016.

Mr O'Callaghan said Chief Justice Susan Denham should chair the new commission, telling members that requiring her to be on a committee when she is not chair was "disrespectful to the office of the Chief Justice".

He said there was no policy reason why the Chief Justice would not chair this body. 

"I know the Tánaiste will no doubt say this is a commitment in the Programme for Government, which in effect means that we agreed with Shane Ross on this.

"And we all know they agreed to it with Shane Ross at a time when Fine Gael would have agreed to drain the Shannon to get into power", he said.

Mr O'Callaghan also criticised the Tánaiste's proposal that a budget of €500,000 would be assigned to the new body, telling her that it did not need a glossy annual report and PR.

Ms Fitzgerald told committee members that the Government's bill and that of Mr O'Callaghan were complementary in many areas, but there were substantial areas that need to be teased out.