Varadkar welcomes health budget hike, but warns: 'We're not awash with cash'

Varadkar welcomes health budget hike, but warns: 'We're not awash with cash'

The health budget will be increased next year for the first time in seven years.

Budget 2015 includes €13.1bn for the delivery of health services.

Minister Leo Varadkar said it was good news, but said the HSE would still need to keep a tight rein on spending.

"(This) is the first time we have had an increase in the health budget since 2008," he said.

"It represents the end of a seven-year cycle of health cuts. It doesn’t mean we are awash with cash - we're certainly far from that (and) it means the budget will remain quite tight next year."

Earlier, Minister Brendan Howlin said: "This Government continues to recognise Health as a key priority, and will provide €13.1bn for the delivery of Health services in 2015.

"In 2015, over 2.1 million people – nearly half the population – will have a medical or GP visit card. This includes our extension of GP coverage to the Under 6s and the Over 70s.

"We will provide additional staff so that patients can access mental health services such as psychologists and counsellors in the primary care setting.

I am providing an additional €25m to deal with delayed discharges in hospitals. I am allocating over €3bn to support older people and disabled services in 2015, and €2.3bn for prescription drugs.

"I want to pay particular tribute to our hospital services and the people working in them. This Government prioritises these key services. I would remind this house that the number of people working in hospitals has remained at 2011 levels of over 48,000, despite increased demands on services.

"The additional funding being provided today will ensure the continued provision of core services, and to enable delivery of Programme for Government commitments to further enhance the health and wellbeing of our population."

Meanwhile, the Irish Medical Organisation has said that today's Budget will mean the health service will be under "severe pressure" in 2015.

President of the IMO, Professor Trevor Duffy, said the €13.02bn announced for the Health sector today represents a real-world cut in the health budget, as this year's €12.7bn budget has an extra overrun of €500m attached, bringing it to €13.2bn - a difference of €180m.

"In a nutshell, it is clear that nobody will notice any improvement in the health services as a result of this budget. The patients certainly won’t and nor will the Doctors and professional staff who work at the coalface," Duffy said.

He also criticised a lack of resources for general practitioners, hospital ward funding, and resources for any potential crisis arising from the Ebola outbreak.

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