Press Release

New hospital units and older people high priorities in €14.5bn health funding 2007

  • Eight new hospital units to open in 2007
  • Priority for older people in Estimates and Budget
  • Breastcheck on target for 2007
  • €1.1bn increase announced today

The Minister for Health and Children, Mary Harney, T.D. today announced the Estimates for public health spending in 2007. Total public spending on health provided in the Abridged Estimates Volume published today amounts to €14 billion gross current plus €657 million gross capital.

The Minister said, ‘The government is again providing for a substantial annual increase in public spending on health, of over €1.1 billion.

‘This brings health spending – gross current plus gross capital – to approximately €14.5 billion. That is over €3,300 per person in Ireland today. It is a quarter of government current spending, more than the entire income tax take from 1.4 million income tax payers.

‘The spending increases in health have, since 1997, always been well above the rate of inflation, in fact, double or treble inflation, and well above the increases provided in the 1990s. Each year, health has always received high priority from the Government, and that is the case again this year.

‘It is beyond question that economic performance is the fuel that powers health service improvements. These increases, and the total we have reached, are made possible only by the strength of the economy and the sound economic policies of the Government. Sustaining our economic performance will sustain health service improvements. By the same token, anything that puts economic performance at risk, will put better services for patients at risk too.

Progress in services

‘The total level of spending is delivering progress for patient care across a very wide range of services.

On Estimates day, traditionally the focus is on incremental change, the additional funding for particular services. At this, the tenth in a series of Estimate for the two parties in coalition government, I think it is appropriate to focus also on service improvements that are being achieved since 1997 with the overall level of funding. For example,

  • Total patient admissions to hospitals are up by more than 300,000 to over 1 million.
  • Waiting times for operations have been dramatically reduced from years to months.
  • No longer do 75 per cent of children and adults wait for more than a year for heart operations.
  • There are nearly 40,000 more cancer patient hospital admissions; more people are being treated and surviving cancer.
  • Infant mortality has fallen by a third.
  • Breastcheck is in place, and will start for all women in the country in spring next year, when there was no breast cancer screening programme in 1997; and preparations underway for cervical screening.
  • There are more than 3,000 Home Care packages now for older people, where there were none in 1997
  • There are approximately 1,500 additional acute hospital beds in use
  • We are providing 1,700 more residential places and nearly 3,000 more day places for care, as one part of the first ever multi-annual programme for services for people with disabilities.

‘Alongside the details of incremental increases today, I am publishing a selection of indicators of health service improvements since 1997. These are as important as the incremental developments today.

‘I believe recognition has to be given to people at the frontline who are, in fact, delivering these service improvements and meeting the commitment to put taxpayers’ money to good use.’

Service developments

‘The additional funding of €1.1 billion will support the development of new services as well as improvement and reform in the way services are delivered by the HSE.

‘I am setting out today the full details of service improvements. I have had several priorities in allocating funding in these Estimates.

New hospital units

‘First, I want to make good on commitments we have made to commission and open in 2007 eight new Units in acute hospitals. €75 million of current expenditure is allocated for this and other developments in the acute hospital sector. This will mean a direct and tangible improvement in services for patients at

  • St Vincent’s Hospital,
  • Midland Regional Hospital at Tullamore
  • Cork University Hospital
  • University College Hospital, Galway
  • Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children, Crumlin
  • Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda
  • Cavan General Hospital and
  • Louth County Hospital, Dundalk.

Services for older people

‘Second, I want to ensure that our commitment to fully fund the largest expansion in services for older people is met in 2007. €110 million was added to services for older people in 2006. This funding has been well-used to treble home care packages, to expand home help hours, to increase nursing home subvention and to support palliative care, for example.

‘The €40 million required to fund this expansion in a full year is now provided for. Effectively, this means that these additional services will be provided for the full 12 months of the year, rather than 9 months on average in 2006, and this will mean more older people will receive new support in 2007 than in 2006.

‘The Minister for Finance and I are discussing a further increase in funding for services for older people in the forthcoming Budget. I am working on the details of the services that we wish to further expand.

‘In short, we intend to build further on the largest ever expansion in services for older people.

‘The Minister and I are also discussing for the Budget the Government’s funding commitment to continue to build up the multi-annual programme for people with disabilities.

Other areas

‘We are providing funding to support the expansion of primary care teams and education and training for health professionals in ways that will improve services. I strongly support the reform and re-organisation work being undertaken in the HSE to provide more services in the community in primary care settings, particularly those based on clinical team work.

‘Since 1997, there has been a cumulative investment of approximately €920 million in the development of cancer services. We will add €18.5 million for developments in 2007, on top of pay increases for cancer service staff.

‘I am particularly pleased that, as part of this additional funding, we will commence, in spring, the full roll-out of Breastcheck next year with an additional €8 million funding.

‘The new funding will also support, for example, the implementation of the Cancer Control Strategy and the recruitment of a new Cancer Control Director (in the first months of the year) and other medical staff.

‘€5 million is being provided to prepare for the roll-out of the Cervical Screening Programme.

‘The work of the National Treatment Purchase Fund to reduce waiting times will be expanded again in 2007, with €10 additional funding to bring the total to €88m. The Fund has shortened waiting times and improved responsiveness for 50,000 public patients. I am very supportive also of its expanding work to provide outpatient appointments in areas and specialties where waiting times have been longest.’

‘This year, we have seen improved management, supported by resources, delivering progress in A&E services for patients. The Estimates today provide the first year funding of €4 million to support the HSE’s Hospital Consultants Incentivisation programme that is now underway. The funds allocated to A&E improvements in previous years are continued forward in the base funding this year.

‘€4m is being provided to continue the development of neurology services through the development of neurology units multidisciplinary care teams and the forthcoming report on neurosurgery. A national neurosciences needs assessment is currently underway. This funding will be used to expand neuroscience services for the entire country.’

‘I am considering the level of increase in charges for private beds in public hospitals and will make an announcement on that shortly. I have decided to make no increase this year in A&E charges, in the statutory charge for hospital stays and in the Drugs Payment Scheme threshold.’

Public service pay in health

‘Approximately half, over €500m, of the increase in current spending is provided to meet pay and related costs for existing staff. This increase makes good on the Government’s commitments in Sustaining Progress and now Towards 2016. ’