Press Release

Ministers Varadkar & Lynch welcome publication of 2016 HSE National Service Plan

€99M for new developments including:

  • Therapy services for young people, especially speech & language
  • Further development of mental health services
  • Primary care including provision for GP care without fees for 6-11
  • Maternity Services
  • Ambulances
  • Hospital projects
  • New vaccines for Men B and Rotavirus, subject to negotiations

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar and the Minister of State for Mental Health, Primary Care and Social Care (Disabilities and Older People) Kathleen Lynch have welcomed the publication of the 2016 HSE National Service Plan.

“This is the second year in which additional Exchequer funding has been made available to support health and social care services and represents a significant proportion of the increase in public expenditure available nationally in 2016”, Minister Varadkar said.

“The increased funding of almost €817 million is 6.5% higher than the original 2015 allocation. This includes an extra €100 million to maintain existing services and €99 million for new developments.

“This is very welcome at a time of increasing demographic pressure. This funding means we can protect existing services and develop new ones in targeted areas such as the national maternity service, the ambulance service, the implementation of a new National Cancer Strategy, hospital service developments, the expansion of the vaccination programme, and improvements in organ transplantation and blood services.

“Extra funding of €7.2 million is provided for the National Ambulance Service to ensure that response times are maintained, including €2 million to recruit and train extra staff and expand the Community First Responder Scheme.

“The Plan also includes €3 million for new maternity service initiatives being phased in next year, or more than €9 million in a full year.

“Additional funding of €2.5 million has been provided for the addition of Rotavirus and Meningococcal B immunisation to the Primary Childhood Immunisation Programme. The HSE proposes introducing these vaccines in 2016, subject to the successful conclusion of negotiations on price with the manufacturers.”

Minister Lynch said: “The 2016 plan includes €35 million earmarked for the further development of mental health. Among my priorities for this funding is the provision of mental health services in the community for those with mild to moderate mental health needs. We have already started working on the provision of these services in Dublin, Limerick, Cork and Wexford and hope to address deficits in other parts of the country in the weeks and months ahead. I have also asked for a particular focus to be placed on perinatal mental health.

“Speech and language therapy requires a specific focus and this is being addressed through additional funding in the National Service Plan as well as a targeted initiative which has been underway since October. Work is underway to complete the reconfiguration of children’s disability services into geographically based Children’s Disability Network Teams (early-intervention and school-aged or 0–18 teams), with 56 of the 129 teams already reconfigured.

“Innovative approaches to respite for people with a disability will be progressed, with funding provided for the development of a host family respite initiative.

“The needs of approximately 1,500 young adults who will leave school or rehabilitative training next year will be provided for in line with the New Directions person-centred approach to adult day supports. In addition, the HSE will continue to advance implementation of Time to Move on from Congregated Settings, by assisting up to 160 people to move from large institutions to homes in the community.

“Funding is being provided to enable more GPs to refer patients directly for ultrasound and x-rays in primary care and to increase minor surgery capacity in general practice. Funding is also in place to enable the extension of free GP care to the under-12s in 2016, subject to contractual negotiations with the IMO.

“The 2016 Service plan maintains the increased levels of provision of home care which is very welcome. In addition to supporting clients in their own homes, services will be provided to avoid hospital admissions and support early discharges through step-down, transitional care and rehabilitation beds, with transitional care beds being maintained in 2016 at the high levels of 2015 to facilitate people who have finished their acute hospital stay but are not in a position to move home for a variety of reasons. Waiting times for approved applicants for the Nursing Homes Support Scheme will be maintained at or around 4 weeks throughout 2016.”

Some details of the 2016 National Service Plan

 Patient Safety and Quality

The Plan provides for capacity development for quality and patient safety across all services and in particular:

  • A focus on priority areas like medication safety, healthcare associated infections, clinical handover and the implementation of the national early warning systems for clinical deterioration
  • Commitment to the implementation of National Clinical Effectiveness guidelines and audit
  • Support for the planned National Patient Safety Office in the Department.

Investments in the acute hospital sector include:


  • The 2016 Service Plan projects the delivery of an equivalent volume of acute hospital activity to that delivered in 2015, including inpatient, daycase, outpatient and emergency activity.

Hospital Groups

  • The focus in development of Hospital Groups will be on embedding robust governance structures within Groups, and on building effective managerial and clinical networks to provide direct support to smaller hospitals within Groups in particular.
  • For the Children’s Hospital Group, there will be a particular focus on the integration of the existing hospitals before the transition of urgent care services to satellite centres in 2017.

National Specialty Service Developments

  • Funding of €3m is being provided in 2016 to continue the development of national specialist services including the stroke telemedicine service in order to support rapid diagnosis and treatment at smaller hospitals with support from specialist centres, the continued investment in scoliosis services and the bilateral cochlear implant programme.


New funding of €3m has been provided for national maternity service improvements including:

  • Establish the National Women and Infants Health programme to lead on the Maternity Strategy;
  • Undertake national maternity service improvements in line with HIQA recommendations and other relevant reviews, and commence implementation of the National Maternity Strategy once published.

Paediatric Service Developments

  • Funded service developments totalling €3.75 million in 2016 including theatre capacity for orthopaedics and trauma. Funding is included to support the services for Duchene’s Muscular Dystrophy in the Children’s Hospital Group.

New Units

  • €3.5 million is being made available in 2016 for the opening of new units including the Endoscopy Unit at Roscommon General Hospital, Wexford General Hospital Delivery Suite, St Luke’s Hospital Kilkenny Acute Floor including Emergency Department, Acute Medical Unit and Oncology Unit, St James’s Hospital, Dublin Mercer’s Institute for Successful Ageing.

Cancer Services

  • New funding of €10 million is provided for cancer services, including for cancer drugs and to support the expansion of Breastcheck and further develop the BowelScreen Programme.

Investment in Primary Care includes

  • Extension of access to GP care without fees to all children aged 6 to 11 years, subject to negotiation with the IMO.
  • Extension of the 2015 minor surgery project for further practices and the targeting of activity transfer from acute hospitals of up to 10,000 procedures. 
  • Extension of direct access for GPs to ultrasound and x-ray, building on the HSE’s 2015 pilot initiative.

Older People

  • An additional €20m has been allocated in 2016 to maintain 2015 outturns of 10.437m home help hours, 15,450 home care packages and 313 transitional care beds delivering 109 places per week during 2016.
  • In addition, approximately 130 Intensive Home Care Packages (first introduced in 2014) will be provided to support the discharge from acute settings of people with more complex needs;
  • The Nursing Homes Support Scheme Budget for 2016 has been set at €940m, which represents an increase of €35m over projected expenditure in 2015.The 2016 provision will deliver 1,222,750 total weeks of care, supporting an average of 23,450 clients per week for 2016, which represents an increase of 649 clients per week on 2015 projections.

Investment in Mental Health includes

  • Funding will be provided for the continued development of counselling services across both primary and secondary care, including the provision of two new Jigsaw youth mental health services in Cork and Dublin city centres.
  • Continued development of Community Mental Health Teams and improved 24/7 responses and liaison services
  • Psychiatry of Later Life
  • Perinatal Mental Health
  • Two new mental health clinical programmes, specifically ADHD in Adults and Children and Dual Diagnosis of those with Mental Illness and Substance Misuse.

Investment in disability services includes

  • €4m to provide an additional 75 therapy posts to complete the process of establishing geographically based Children’s Disability Network Teams and to facilitate innovative approaches to reducing waiting lists for therapies
  • Expansion of integrated early intervention services so that children with disabilities can avail of mainstream pre-schools under the Early Childhood Care and Education Programme (ECCE) – this is a joint initiative with the Department of Children and Youth Affairs
  • Additional funding of €7.25m to meet the cost of providing day supports and services for approximately 1,500 young adults who will complete their education or life-skills training in 2016 in line with the person-centred supports model set out in New Directions.
  • €1m to be provided for the development of a host family respite initiative advancing implementation of the national policy to assist people with disabilities to move from large institutions to accommodation in community settings aimed at providing person-centred services for some 160 service users in 2016. This initiative is supported by additional capital funding as well as funding from the Service Reform Fund (jointly funded by the Department of Health and Atlantic Philanthropies)

The Service Plan also provides for the continued implementation of the Healthy Ireland framework, the ongoing health reform programme, including the development of the Hospital Groups and Community Health Organisations and the implementation of Activity Based Funding in acute hospitals in 2016.