Budget 2018: Health service to get extra €685m next year

Increase to cut waiting lists and provide more homecare packages and transitional beds

The health service is to receive a €40 million package of support measures for hospitals to allow for the opening of new units next year and to improve access to diagnostics and “surge” capacity. Photograph: Getty Images

The health service is to receive a €40 million package of support measures for hospitals to allow for the opening of new units next year and to improve access to diagnostics and “surge” capacity. Photograph: Getty Images

 

The health service is to receive an extra €685 million in current and capital funding next year, which will allow the recruitment of 1,800 front-line health service staff.

The staff will be filled to help cope with extra demand in acute hospitals, mental health, disability, primary and community care sectors, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said.

However, the Minister warned the Health Service Executive that “securing value for money is an absolute requirement that must be delivered to maximise the impact of these increases”.

The extra money, said Minister for Health Simon Harris, will help to cut waiting lists, provide more homecare packages and step-down beds to get patients out of acute hospitals, along with paying for new units to cope with surges.

Prescription charges which those with medical cards must pay themselves are to be reduced from €2.50 to €2 per item, and the monthly cap on such payments is to be cut from €25 to €20.

The maximum amount which patients must pay for drugs and medicines themselves before State subsidies apply under the Drug Payment scheme is to be reduced from €144 to €134 per month.

Capital investment

Overall, current expenditure in the health service is to be increased by €646 million next year, while an additional €39 million is to be allocated for capital investment.

Of the increased current expenditure, about €200 million will go to pay for new developments in the health service.

Mr Harris said a further €200 million of the increased current allocation will go towards meeting the cost of pay increases for staff under the new public service agreement.

A new “access programme” will be put in place for the remainder of 2017 and into 2018.

An additional €55 million is to allocated to the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) in 2018 to pay for procedures for patients currently on waiting lists in public hospitals.

A further €20 million is to be given to the NTPF to tackle waiting lists in the weeks running up to Christmas and to pay for the HSE’s winter initiative programme to cater for growing demands as the weather deteriorates.

Close to €40 million is to be provided for securing additional homecare packages and transitional beds, to assist in moving patients out of hospitals when their acute phase of treatment has concluded.

The health service will also receive a €40 million package of support measures for hospitals to allow for the opening of new units next year and to improve access to diagnostics and “surge” capacity in the system.

The Minister said additional capacity would be provided in Galway hospital, Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, Beaumont Hospital in Dublin, Roscommon hospital and South Tipperary hospital.

Primary care fund

The Government is also to establish a new primary care fund of nearly €40 million which will pay for access to new drugs and provide about €25 million in “seed” funding for a new contract with general practitioners.

Mental health services are to receive €35 million more in funding next year.

Mr Donohoe said the Government looked forward “to further progress in relation to the GP contracts and is hopeful that agreement can be reached on the introduction of additional services during 2018”.

He said an additional €471 million has been made available in capital spending to cover the period 2018-2021.

“This represents, on average, an additional €120 million each year,” he said. “This funding will allow for investment in critical infrastructure, including the delivery of the national children’s hospital project and a range of other investments in primary and community care schemes.”