Press Release

Better access, more help for families and more supports for disability, mental health, and older and vulnerable people, in Budget 2018 – Ministers

Minister Simon Harris and Ministers of State Finian McGrath, Jim Daly and Catherine Byrne have said that Budget 2018 delivers better access, more help for families and more supports for disability, mental health, and older and vulnerable people.

An additional €646 million in current expenditure is being allocated to Health in Budget 2018. Over €200 million of this is for new developments. There is also an additional €471 million for capital over the period 2018 to 2021, with €39m for capital in 2018.

The overall Health budget for 2018 is almost €15.3 billion.

An additional €40 million fund will be provided in 2017 to prepare for and manage the expected peak in demand for our health services over the winter period.

Budget 2018 will mean additional frontline staff for the health service, across the acute, mental health, disability, primary and community care sectors. The increase in nursing numbers will be realised as we continue to extend and roll out the Taskforce on Safe Staffing.

Funding is being targeted in a number of key areas, including the following:

·        New access programme for 2017/2018
·        Helping families with the cost of medication and care

·        Shift to Primary Care

·        Expanding and developing Mental Health Services

·        Supporting Disability Services·

·       Supporting the most vulnerable

New access programme for 2017/2018

·        €75 million to reduce waiting lists

·        €37 million extra for Home Care packages and Transitional Care beds

·        €20 million for extra capacity and support for our hospitals in 2018

Minister Harris said “Reducing waiting times for patients and improving access to our health services is one of my key priorities. Budget 2018 will increase investment in the NTPF from its original allocation of €20m in 2017 to €55m in 2018. This significant increase in funding will mean that over 18,000 additional procedures will be offered to patients next year across a range of specialties and procedures. Additional funding of €10m will be provided in 2017 to fund further NTPF initiatives and HSE insourcing initiatives in order to continue the strong focus on reducing waiting times for hospital procedures this year. This will ensure that more patients are seen in our hospitals and fewer patients have to bear the burden of long waiting times. Funding for the reduction in waiting times for paediatric orthopaedic services and treatments for scoliosis is also being provided, building on progress which is underway.

In addition, funding to improve access to emergency care in 2018 will enable the opening of additional hospital capacity, including new beds and by providing additional diagnostic services and surge capacity to reduce ED overcrowding. Additional capacity will be introduced in Galway, Our Lady of Lourdes Drogheda, Beaumont, Roscommon and South Tipperary.”

Minister Harris said, “I am delighted that we have also been able to make additional funding available this year to progress key strategic initiatives. This will enable progress in the phased implementation of the National Cancer Strategy, the National Maternity Strategy, and in the continued development of the National Ambulance Service, leading to sustainable improvement in these services. The new children’s hospital project continues to be a key priority for this year, as we continue the transformation change programme underway”.

Minister Daly said, “I am delighted that we are in a position to further strengthen supports for our older people, particularly to facilitate speedier discharge from acute hospitals over the winter period.”

Helping families with the cost of medication and care

·        500,000 Medical Card holders under the age of 70 to save up to €60 in 2018 from the reduction in prescription charge to €2 per item and the maximum charge to €20 per month

·        Families to save up to €120 a year in medication costs with a reduction of €10 in the monthly threshold for Drug Payment Scheme

·        The Nursing Home Support Scheme will receive a budget of €949.7m for 2018 to ensure that access to funding under the Scheme does not exceed four weeks throughout 2018

Minister Harris said, “Reducing the cost of medicines for families is a key commitment in the Programme for Government and, building on the progress in 2017 where I reduced the prescription charge for over 70’s, I am delighted to be in a position in Budget 2018 to reduce the cost of medicines for families from 1 January 2018. In line with the recommendations of the Report of the Oireachtas Committee on the Future of Healthcare, and subject to available resources, it is my intention to build upon these initiatives in future years and continue to reduce the cost of medicines for families.”

Shift to Primary Care

·        New primary care fund to support development of GP services, expand community intervention teams and hire more Occupational Therapists

·        Increase the number of Advanced Nurse Practitioners to improve access to primary care and provide enhanced career opportunities for our nurses and midwives

The development of primary care is central to the Government’s objective to deliver a high-quality, integrated and cost-effective health care system. The Report of the Oireachtas Committee on the Future of Healthcare also provided strong support for the need to strengthen our services as part of the overall reform of our health services.

Minister Harris said “The provision of a €25 million primary care fund in Budget 2018 demonstrates this Government’s ongoing commitment to shifting the model of healthcare towards a more comprehensive and accessible primary care service in order to deliver better care close to home in communities across the country.  This new funding will enable a range of initiatives to be progressed in 2018 which will focus on disease prevention and early intervention, particularly through the further development and expansion of GP services, our Community Intervention Teams and the recruitment of additional therapy posts.  Throughout 2018 there will also be a continued focus on the development of primary care centres and primary care teams. In relation to GP care I am optimistic that agreement can be reached with GP representatives in the coming months on significant service developments that can also be introduced during 2018. This will be the start of a multi-annual change process that will enhance the role of primary care as the foundation of a more accessible and effective health service.”

Expanding and developing Mental Health Services

·        €35 million more to develop mental health services in 2018 – with €40 million in additional funding agreed for 2019

·        The Mental Health Budget has risen from €711m in 2012 to over €885m (an increase of around 25%, in six years)

·        More staffing in Child & Adolescents (CAMHs), Adult and Psychiatry of Later Life services

Minister Daly said “the provision of an additional €35 million for 2018 will help us to build on the work commenced in 2017 on the enhancement of Community Teams for Children, Adults, Later Life and Mental Health Intellectual Disability services. It will also help us to continue our move towards a full 24/7 service with an initial focus on increasing the provision of services on a 7-day-a-week basis. Further improvements are also planned to services for Eating Disorders and Dual Diagnosis. It is important, however, that we use this extra funding  to ensure that not only are our services of a high quality but that we provide as seamless as possible a service for every service-user. I have asked the HSE to prioritise this in 2018.”

I am also delighted that we have secured a further €40 million in funding in 2019. This will allow for a multi-annual approach developing our mental health services taking account of the Review of Vision for Change which is underway.”

Supporting Disability Services

·        The allocation for disability services will rise to over €1,763m in 2018, compared to the €1,688m allocated in the National Service Plan 2017, an increase of €75 million

·        This additional funding includes pay adjustments under the Lansdowne Road agreement, the full year effect of 2017 service developments and additional funding to address key priorities including additional day services for school leavers

·        Improving the quality of life of persons with disabilities

Minister McGrath said “I am very pleased that I have been able to both build upon significant existing resources and obtain additional funding for disability services.  I have also worked to secure supports for people with disabilities from the other key budgetary departments in my portfolio, Social Protection and Justice. On taking office, one of my priorities was to ensure that all young adults leaving school or rehabilitative training would have access to supports and services which met their needs at one of the most crucial transition points of their lives. I can confirm that the additional funding obtained this year will provide for the full year effect of these additional services in 2017, as well as making sure that the needs of all those leaving school in 2018 will also be addressed.”

In preparing its National Service Plan, the Minister will ask the HSE to examine how a number of other key priorities from the Programme for Government can be progressed in 2018 within the overall increased envelope of funding for disability services. The additional funding in 2018 will be focused on a number of priority areas arising from ongoing demographic changes including residential places, respite places, Personal Assistance and Home Support service hours.

Supporting the most vulnerable

·        Tackle pressure points in the drug and alcohol treatment services and reduce waiting times – establishing a treatment service in Kildare and increasing capacity in other areas·        New €250,000 programme to promote community awareness of alcohol-related harm

·        Increasing the number of drug-liaison midwives to support pregnant women with substance misuse problems

·        Improving access to in-reach services in emergency and temporary accommodation and the mobile health clinic to operate on a five-day week basis

·        Improving access to primary care services for refugees arriving in Emergency Reception and Orientation Centres

Minister Byrne said “The Government is committed to making significant progress in implementing the actions identified as a priority for 2018 in the new strategy to respond to drug and alcohol use in Ireland “Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery”. The Government also intends to maintain a focus on the health needs of the most vulnerable groups in society, who can experience health inequalities, have difficulties accessing services and present with multiple, complex health and support needs. In this context, I am pleased to announce that significant additional funding has been approved to address the health needs of people who are homeless and have mental health and addiction issues in line with Rebuilding Ireland.

Minister Byrne continued, “I’m also pleased to see that we are committed to the Healthy Ireland Fund and that another €5 million will be available in 2018. The Fund will support partnership working in different sectors and communities to help ensure our policies under Healthy Ireland have an impact at local level. It’s important that we keep a focus on prevention and on empowering people and communities to improve their own health and wellbeing”.