Health Minister Simon Harris has said the increased funding for health in 2019 will be focused on Sláintecare, increased investment in GP services, more funding for tackling waiting lists and assistance for families with the cost of doctor visits and medicines.
The Budget announced today features more than €200m to implement the Sláintecare Strategy launched by the Government in August.
Minister Simon Harris said: "We are now firmly in the era of Sláintecare.
“Budget 2019 will increase investment in the National Treatment Purchase Fund from €55m to €75m. This funding will be used to treat 70,000 patients on waiting lists in 2019. This is in addition to the HSE insourcing initiatives on reducing waiting times for hospital procedures this year."
However, the Chairman of the Private Hospitals Association, Michael Cullen, said: “While acknowledging a €20m increase, the Government has again ducked the opportunity to make a substantial impact on hospital waiting lists by failing to commit to a multi-annual funding mechanism for the National Treatment Purchase Fund.
“In addition, a substantial element of NTPF funding is today simply going back into the public system in the form of in-sourcing activity which in turn is shoring up the financial deficits that exist within our public hospital system nationally.
“This is all a far cry from the NTPF budgets of the past and it reinforces the reluctance of the Government to draw on in any meaningful way the substantial capacity the private hospital sector has across Ireland, to resolve the endemic problem of patient waiting lists in this country.”
Minister Harris said: “I am particularly pleased to be announcing an expansion of free GP care, which could benefit up to 100,000 people.”
Minister of State Finian 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 am also delighted to have been able to secure funding for additional therapy posts for Assessment of Need and therapeutic interventions - we know how important early intervention is in supporting children to reach their full potential.”
Minister of State Jim Daly said: "While the bulk of this €55m new development funding is aimed at further enhancing community mental health teams for adults and children, I am pleased to have secured funding that will enhance the spectrum of services, ranging from prevention and early intervention to promoting recovery in the most complex cases.
"New funding for community-led youth mental health initiatives by sporting, community or other youth groups to promote and deliver positive mental health in a new way will also be rolled out."
Minister of State Catherine Byrne said: "My intention is to prioritise funding for community drug and alcohol projects in task force areas of greatest need, additional drug and alcohol midwives working with vulnerable mothers-to-be and enhanced treatment services to address existing and emerging needs.
"Extending the HPV vaccine to boys will help us achieve our goal of eliminating cervical cancer and will serve to protect boys and girls from a range of other cancers in the future."
However, the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA) has said it was "very disappointing that enough money could not be found" to cover the costs of making new innovative medicines available to patients.
Oliver O’Connor, CEO of IPHA, said: “It shows the deep inequality at the heart of health spending in Ireland, and a distinct lack of planning for new treatments pharmaceutical innovators are offering to the market. Ireland remains among the slowest countries in western Europe for access to innovative medicines."
The HSE has welcomed the increased spending announced today, saying it "will greatly assist in dealing with the year-on-year rising demands on our healthcare system".
The Interim Director General of the HSE, John Connaghan, said: “The additional money received today is significant and most welcome. Central to the National Service Plan for 2019 will be a focus on ensuring that all monies received are spent in the most cost-effective and efficient manner in line with the budgets agreed with service providers."
- Digital Desk