Press Release

Varadkar and Lynch secure modest Budget increase in health service funding for first time in 7 years

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar and Minister of State Kathleen Lynch at the Department of Health Press and Media Briefing on Budget 2015

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar and Minister of State Kathleen Lynch at the Department of Health Press and Media Briefing on Budget 2015

 Budget 2015 brings stability but savings still necessary in year ahead

Extension of BreastCheck will commence in 2015
Mental Health Teams will be further enhanced
Efficiency and accountability framework to be implemented

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar and Minister of State Kathleen Lynch have secured an increase in funding for the health service in 2015, the first Budget increase for seven years.

The current budget for the health service for 2014 was €12.774 billion. For 2015 there will be an increase of Exchequer funding of €305 million, bringing the Exchequer contribution to €13.079 billion. Further once-off revenue measures of €330 million will also be available to support services.

This means there will be an increase of €635 million in current spending for the health services compared to the start of 2014. The total capital budget for 2015 will be a further €382 million.

Minister Varadkar said: “The cycle of cuts in health has come to an end. The 2015 budget is challenging, but its targets are achievable.

“We are now entering a two year process which stabilises the budget, and allows for existing levels of service to continue, along with some enhancements. We have sufficient funding to honour our Programme for Government commitments to start extending BreastCheck in 2015 to women up to the age of 69, expand Mental Health Teams and invest further in suicide prevention. We will also introduce GP care without fees for the over 70s and for the under-sixes when negotiations conclude with the IMO. This will mean that almost half of the population will have access to GP services without fees.

“As part of this two year process starting in 2015, the spending ceiling for 2016 has been increased further by €174 million. This does not mean that we are awash with cash, as it has to take account of the overrun in 2014, the costs of new medicines and treatments, and the demands of an ageing and growing population. But it does make the funding situation in the health service more manageable.

“The once-off revenue measures relate principally to quicker settlement of hospital bills by health insurers and receipts from the UK authorities for the treatment by the Irish health services of persons covered by the UK’s national insurance system.

“In addition, specific savings and efficiencies of €130 million have been identified in the areas of procurement, drug costs, agency costs, clinical audit and special investigation. Significantly, any savings made will go back into the development and delivery of services for patients and will not be used to reduce the overall Budget deficit or pay down the national debt. I hope that this reassurance will allow further savings to be identified and achieved, which can be reinvested in the service in the years ahead.

“Funding of €25 million is being set aside for delayed discharges. This will be targeted at hospital and community services which can demonstrate initiatives to address the specific needs of delayed discharge patients most positively, and thereby improve timelines for admissions from Emergency Departments and waiting lists.

“Prescription charges will be frozen, along with Emergency Department fees and hospital bed charges. The threshold for the Drug Payment Scheme will remain unchanged and the income threshold for medical cards and GP visit cards will also remain unchanged.

“The capital budget for health will increase by €68 million from 2016 onwards, a rise of 18%, which will allow for more planning for primary care and community nursing units, and new capital investments in the cancer facilities programme. It will also allow investments in the area of ICT, where existing systems and the level of integration are not appropriate to a health service of this scale and complexity.

“This Budget was never just about securing more money, it was about being able to deliver meaningful change within a realistic budget. That is why we are also planning a robust efficiency and accountability framework to ensure that resources will be managed effectively, and that managers will be directly responsible for their budgets.

“Healthy Ireland will remain a priority in 2015 and I am looking forward to extending its range of activities, and raising awareness of this crucial programme, particularly in the areas of physical activity, diet and substance abuse.

Minister Kathleen Lynch said “The €35m ring fenced for mental health services in Budget 2015 is in line with the commitment in the Programme for Government to accelerate the pace of change to develop a modern, patient-centred, and recovery orientated mental health service. We are committed, in particular, to reforming our model of delivery so that more and better quality mental health care is delivered in the community in line with A Vision for Change. Today’s allocation brings overall funding to €125m specifically earmarked for mental health and suicide prevention since this Government came into office. “

“In relation to disability services, we are implementing a significant restructuring to move to a new model of person centred community based service to provide greater choice for people with disabilities and increased access to supports and resources they require. The extra €6m allocation for the Services for Children and Young People Programme (0-18s) will enable us to drive implementation of the Programme through new staff appointments to reconfigured multi-disciplinary, geographic-based teams, and through using innovative approaches, involving public, voluntary and private providers, to achieve targeted reduction of waiting lists. The €12m allocated for school leavers (over 18s) will allow us to continue to provide services to these service users at a similar level to 2014.”

Concluding, Minister Varadkar said, “I want to thank my colleagues in Government who have been willing to back me, even though circumstances remain difficult in their own Departments. I particularly want to pay tribute to healthcare staff who have been through some very difficult years. It’s thanks to their hard work and dedication that the Irish health service has survived the most difficult period in its history. We still face many difficulties but hopefully things will now become a little more manageable, especially for those working at the frontline.

“This Government is united in wanting to deliver major change in healthcare, and we are committed to not just spending more money to look after the young, the sick, and the elderly, but using that money more efficiently, so that we have a health service that works for the benefit of all of us.”

Ends

Note for Editors

The term ‘health service’ refers to the Department of Health and the HSE.

The level of services to be delivered will be set out in the HSE’s Service Plan which will be submitted for approval to the Minister and will be brought by him to Cabinet. This will set out the level and type of health services to be provided in 2015.