A new research paper for the Government has estimated that Ireland will need to at least double the intake of student nurses in the higher education system over about 20 years.

It says that last year, around 46% of wholetime equivalent (WTE) nurses here were educated abroad.

However, Ireland has committed to attain self-sufficiency in health staffing and reduce its reliance on a foreign educated nursing workforce, as part of a World Health Organization code of practice.

Ireland has agreed to responsible recruitment and to end active recruitment of health personnel from developing countries, particularly those facing critical shortages.

Based on the current intake of 2,000 undergraduate nurses a year in Ireland, the number of WTE nurses will reduce from 54% last year, to 38% in 2041.

The report says that significantly increasing the production of nursing graduates by 251% to the per capita level of Australia (109 per 100,000), among the highest in the world, increases the share of domestically educated nurses to around 70% of the WTE workforce after 20 years.

The report, 'A System Dynamics Model of Nursing Workforce Supply', is part of the 2022 spending review to improve evidence-based policy decisions and has been published by the Department of Health.

Separately, the department has also published a study on Population Based Resource Allocation (PBRA) funding models to distribute healthcare resources according to population need, to promote efficiency and equity in health outcomes and distribution of resources.

A PBRA model will be designed and used for the planned six Regional Health Areas.

A health capital investment study, also published today, says that the age of both community and acute hospital facilities varies significantly, with a large proportion of both portfolios being built over 40 years ago.

It concludes that this likely has negative associated impacts on maintenance costs, patient safety and efficiency in healthcare service delivery.

It also says that the number of general hospital beds available for each Regional Health Area is uneven, with RHA West having 247 beds per 100,000 people compared with RHA East having 207 beds for every 100,000 people.

The relationship between occupancy and bed capacity in each region is described as weak, highlighting the need for further analysis of acute care performance.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said the publications were about fundamentally changing the way Ireland invests in healthcare, in particular relating to the workforce and acute beds.