The health sector will receive more than €17 billion in exchequer funding for day-to-day services and capital infrastructure next year (2019) - the highest ever budget.
This represents a significant €1.695 billion increase on the initial funding commitment for this year (2018), which was €15.3 billion - €14.8 billion in current funding and €493 million in capital funding.
As the HSE has continually gone over budget in recent years, the figures that matter are the annual outturns. The outturn is the amount of money that was actually spent - as opposed to the figure that was initially allocated in the budget.
The HSE overrun for this year (2018) is expected to be more than €700 million. That means the outturn will top €16 billion.
In his budget speech, the Minister for Finance announced that €17 billion would be allocated to health in 2019 - meaning the government has promised to allocate an additional €1 billion in funding to the health service next year.
The response from medical bodies was lukewarm. The Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) outlined its “grave concern” that Budget 2019 was unlikely to address serious capacity deficits.
the government has allocated an additional €84 million for mental health services in 2019
The Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) welcomed the extension of the free GP card but warned that it would further increase demand on the GP workforce.
The budget breakdown for health in 2019 is as follows: €16.36 in current expenditure and €670 million in capital (€17.03 billion)
To put this €17.03 billion in perspective, figures from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform show €13.3 billion was spent in 2015; €14.1 billion in 2016; and €14.7 billion in 2017.
In addition, the government has allocated an additional €84 million for mental health services in 2019, bringing the total available funding for mental health to €1 billion.
The government has increased funding to the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF), which will be allocated €75 million (up by €20 million) in 2019 to help reduce public hospital waiting lists by outsourcing procedures to the private sector. This will be welcomed by private hospitals - and indeed patients.
An additional €150 million is being provided for disability services next year to bring total funding in this area to almost €2 billion.
With regard to the 2019 capital envelope for health, €174 million has been provided, bringing the total capital allocation to €670 million next year.
Donohoe announced a suite of measures that were widely tipped in advance. These included:
- A €25 increase in the weekly income threshold for GP Visit cards
- A 50 cent reduction in prescription charges from €2 to €1.50 for all medical card holders over the age of 70
- And a €10 reduction in the monthly Drugs Payment Scheme threshold from €134 to €124.