Press Release

Varadkar & Lynch secure substantial increase in health budget

  •  Almost €900 million more in 2016 compared to 2015 Budget
  • Funding for Maternity Strategy
  • Extra ambulance service staff & expansion of community first responder teams
  • Extension of GP care to children aged 11 years and under, subject to negotiations with IMO
  • Further investment in diagnostics in primary care
  • Expansion of Child Speech & Language Therapy within primary care

Minister Leo Varadkar and Minister of State Kathleen Lynch have secured a substantial increase in health service funding in Budget 2016.

For 2016, the Department of Health will have funding of €13.175 billion for current expenditure and €414 million for capital expenditure. This represents an increase of €880 million on the 2015 budget, as set out in the Revised Estimate Volume, for current expenditure, and €36 million for capital expenditure. The funding includes the ongoing cost associated with the increased demand on services experienced during 2015.

The Estimate includes funding to cover the full annual cost of a number of measures such as GP care for the under sixes and over 70s, which were introduced partway through 2015. It also provides for the annual rise in demand on health services as a result of demographic pressures, such as the ageing and growing population, and to fund the Lansdowne Road Agreement provisions on pay for health sector staff. The 2016 budget also comprises saving and efficiencies measures of €125 million in procurement, prescribing, and drug costs.

Nevertheless, the actual scope for new programmes in 2016 is modest and remaining resources have had to be targeted quite carefully. But they will include an extension of GP care, therapies for children, further investment in mental health services, measures recommended under the Maternity Strategy, and ambulance staff. These will be outlined in the HSE Service Plan later this year.

Minister Varadkar said: “Last year we secured the first increase in the health budget in seven years. This year represents a further increase, bringing health spending above 13bn for the first time since the economic crash. This will allow us to maintain the existing level of service, provide for the increase in demand that arises from a growing and ageing population, and also to make a few key improvements which we will set out in the HSE service plan for 2016. I expect to see further increases in the health budget in future years, provided we keep the recovery going. You need a strong economy to generate the resources we need to look after our citizens and their health and wellbeing.”

Minister Lynch said: “We have already delivered GP care without fees for under sixes and over 70s. We intend to build on that further in 2016 with a further expansion in GP services, subject to agreement with the IMO. The additional funding to expand Speech & Language Therapy at primary care level is very welcome. It will allow Speech and Language and other therapies to be re-organised and expanded under the Progressing Disability Services Programme for Children and Young People, including the development of early intervention services to allow children with a disability to attend mainstream preschools”.

Specifically, the new measures include:

An extension of GP care subject to negotiations with the IMO
There will be further investment in primary care, subject to negotiations with the IMO on a comprehensive new contract, including an extension of GP care without fees for all children aged 11 years and under, and including the asthma cycle of care. Other measures proposed are expanded GP access to diagnostic services, and allowing more GPs around the country to offer minor surgery procedures.

Expansion of Child Speech & Language Therapy within primary care
Funding will be allocated to expand the availability of Speech and Language Therapy at primary care level. It will also support the reorganisation and expansion of Speech and Language and other therapies under the Progressing Disability Services Programme for Children and Young People, including the development of early intervention services to facilitate children with a disability in mainstream preschool settings.

Mental Health
This Government is committed to the development of 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. Since coming into office this Government has increased funding by €125m for mental health and suicide prevention and there will be a further increase in funding in line with the commitment in the programme for government.

Funding for the National Maternity Strategy and more staff in maternity services
The National Women and Infants Programme will be set up in 2016 to standardise and improve maternity care across all 19 maternity units and address front line staff pressures. Directors of Midwifery and Bereavement Teams will be appointed to maternity units as standard. The funding will also support the Maternal Neonatal Clinical Management System which will be implemented on a pilot basis in 2016.

Extra ambulance service staff and more community first responder teams
Funding will be allocated to provide extra Community First Responder teams – which provide a rapid response to emergencies in more isolated areas – and increase the number of paramedics, especially in rural areas.

Fees
There will be no increase in hospital fees or prescription charges in 2016, and the threshold for the Drugs Payment Scheme, for medical cards and GP visit cards remains unchanged.

ENDS

Read Budget Statement by the Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar TD on the 2016 Health Estimates here.