Additional €800m health service funding in budget for ageing and growing population

Budget 2024: Money available for new measures drops from €250m last year to €100m this year

An additional €800 million in core funding is being provided to the health service in Budget 2024 to meet the needs of an ageing and growing population.

This is the smallest increase in funding for some time, following a run of €1 billion-plus rises over recent years.

The amount of money available for new measures, as opposed to providing the existing level of services, is just €100 million, down from €250 million in the last budget.

A new health resilience fund is being established to meet the pressures caused by rising demand and inflation, but no details of this have yet been provided.


Non-core funding of €1 billion is also being provided to help the health service deal with the after-effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and for non health-related Ukraine supports.

The free contraception scheme is being extended beyond the age of 30 to women aged 31 next year. Six new surgical hubs will be opened and staffed, and child and adolescent mental health teams are being expanded, The Irish Times understands.

There will also be more funding for digital health and significant extra funding for initiatives to tackle waiting lists.

In his budget speech, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe highlighted the “level of [health] spending without precedent” by the Government over the past 3½ years. Ireland continues to spend a greater share of its national income on health than many other countries, he said.

Mr Donohoe pointed to the provision of 2,500 additional hospital beds and the recruitment of 22,000 additional health staff over this period.

He said the Government had also cut costs for patients, removed hospital charges, greatly increased access to GP care and introduced State-funded IVF.

Budget 2024 would continue this high level of investment, he promised, without providing any detail.

Later, his department was forced to delete an inaccurate tweet that appeared to announce funding for additional hospital beds and staff.

The tweet claimed Mr Donohoe had announced funding for over 2,500 additional beds and 22,000 staff in his budget speech, when he was referring to previous achievements.

Mr Donohoe made no mention of any new investment in these areas and Sinn Féin health spokesman David Cullinane said the department had confirmed there wouldn’t be any.

Mr Cullinane described the post, which was later deleted, as “very disingenuous and misleading”.

In his speech, Mr Donohoe said the total allocation of €22.5 billion for health included a €808 million increase in core current funding “to address demographic and service pressures”.

He said €1.23 billion was being provided as part of the National Development Plan for the delivery of additional health infrastructure.

The Department of Health will provide further detail on the funding it has received at a media briefing on Wednesday.

This year’s health budget has been significantly overspent and a supplementary budget will be needed at the end of the year. The exact amount has yet to be determined but is expected to be at least €1.1 billion.

An additional 75 cent has been added to the price of a packet of cigarettes in Budget 2024, bringing the average price to €16.75.

The Irish Hospital Consultants’ Association expressed concern that not enough capital funding had been provided to open previously promised hospital beds and operating theatre capacity.

The Irish Medical Organisation described the budget allocation for health as “another missed opportunity” and predicted a “difficult year” for patients.

“The additional core funding increase is unlikely to maintain additional services let alone meet increased demand from a rapidly growing and ageing population, and increased complexities,” it said.

*This article was amended on Wednesday, October 11th, 2023

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times