National Clinical Programmes

Doctor with nursing student
Doctor with patient


The National Clinical Programmes were established to enable doctors, other Health Care Professionals, patients and Healthcare Managers to work together to design safer, more effective services.

The National Clinical Programmes focus on improving specific clinical areas such as:

  • chronic diseases, e.g. heart failure, stroke, epilepsy
  • outpatients services, e.g. dermatology, neurology
  • acute hospital services, e.g. radiology, acute medicine.

The programmes are led by doctors and were established jointly by the HSE Directorate of Clinical Strategy and Programmes and Irish postgraduate medical training bodies, such as RCPI.

Each National Clinical Programme has three main objectives, to:

  • improve quality of care
  • improve access
  • improve value

The first programmes were launched in 2010 and there are approximately 36 National Clinical Programmes in operation today.

Since their foundation, the National Clinical Programmes have been one of the most significant and positive developments in the Irish Health Service. Their success is due to the close collaboration between the HSE and the Medical Training Colleges and working in partnership with patients, nursing and therapy leads and the Department of Health.


Doctors, nurses, health and social care professionals, and hospital managers with expertise in that clinical service area work together to develop standardised care pathways, clinical guidelines and models of care for the patient journey.

The patient journey can be complex and the National Clinical Programmes use quality improvement methodologies to develop practical solutions to address potentially problematic points on this journey; for example, delays in getting an outpatient appointment.

By bringing experienced people from multidisciplinary backgrounds together we create the right conditions for innovative ideas and solutions to evolve – solutions that deliver real and lasting benefits for all patients and HSE service users.

Many programmes are also developing national clinical guidelines, which act as a step-by-step guide to managing common or urgent issues within a clinical area; for example how to manage early pregnancy loss.

The guidelines are patient-focused and undergo extensive peer review before being approved.

Doctor and trainee.

In Ireland an estimated 190,000 people (5.6% of the Irish population) have diabetes. The aim of the Diabetes Clinical Programme is to save the lives, eyes and limbs of patients with diabetes.

National Clinical Programme for Diabetes

Why was the National Clinical Programme for Acute Medicine established?


Fellows of RCPI, who are senior hospital consultants, lead 20 National Clinical Programmes, providing clinical leadership and expertise:

  • Acute Coronary Syndrome
  • Acute Medicine
  • Asthma
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
  • Cystic Fibrosis
  • Dermatology
  • Diabetes
  • Epilepsy
  • Heart Failure
  • Neurology
  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology
  • Older People
  • Paediatrics and Neonatology
  • Palliative Care
  • Pathology
  • Rare Diseases
  • Rehabilitation Medicine
  • Renal Programme
  • Rheumatology
  • Stroke

Programme management support for each of the 20 RCPI clinician-led programmes is provided by either RCPI or the HSE Clinical Strategy and Programmes Directorate.

For each of the 20 RCPI clinician-led Programmes:

  • A National Clinical Lead is jointly appointed by RCPI and the HSE Directorate of Clinical Strategy and Programmes.
  • A Clinical Advisory Group (CAG) comprising doctors in the relevant medical specialty is appointed by RCPI. The National Clinical Lead is a member of the CAG. The three main objectives of each CAG are to provide clinical strategic vision and input, review and sign off guidelines and models of care, and proactively support and facilitate the implementation of the programmes on a nationally agreed model.
  • A National Programme Manager is appointed by RCPI or the HSE Directorate of Clinical Strategy and Programmes.
  • A multidisciplinary Working Group is established to set out and conduct the work of the Programme.
  • Regional Programme Leads are appointed to liaise with the local hospital Clinical Leads and the local hospital governance structure.
Respiratory medicine.

Why was the National Clinical Programme for Older People established?

The vision of the National Clinical Programme for Asthma is that every child and every adult with asthma in Ireland should reach their maximal health and quality-of-life potential through the prevention, early detection and effective treatment of asthma.

National Clinical Programme for Asthma