Largest budget increase in history of state

A total of €21billion has been allocated to the Irish Health services for 2021. This is an additional €4billion over the original allocation in 2020 – the largest budget increase in the history of the state. There will be a further 1 billion for additional capital spending. Maureen Browne reports.

Health Minister, Mr. Stephen Donnelly said the budget would deliver funding for 2,600 beds and about 16,000 staff for the health service over Budget 2020 levels. Of the additional beds, 1,146 will be in the acute sector and by end 2020 approximately 650 additional beds are scheduled to be open, a further approximately 280 are planned in the first four months of 2021 with 216 planned by end 2021.

“The budget will provide permanent funding for the capacity and staff introduced in 2020 and planned under the HSE Winter Plan, move care from hospitals to communities, closer to home, ensure that more people have access to primary care, that more older people will have medical cards and it will ensure that funding is in place for new medicines and technologies.

“It is providing unprecedented funding for key national strategies that will improve maternity and gynaecology services, cancer services, our trauma network, palliative care, dementia services and women’s health.”

Health Minister, Mr. Stephen Donnelly said the budget would deliver funding for 2,600 beds and about 16,000 staff for the health service over Budget 2020 levels.

A significant proportion of the additional €4billion (€1.7 billion) will be spent on protecting health care workers, vulnerable groups and public from the impacts of COVID-19.
A total of €467 million will be spent on permanently funding 2,600 beds in acute and community settings, including €52m for critical care beds, €100 million goes to services for people with a disability, €38m for new mental health services and €425 million to deliver enhanced community and social care services, including an additional 5 million home care hours.
The budget has allocated €318 million to improve access to care including a new Access to Care fund. Said the Minister, “Hundreds of thousands of people were on waiting lists before COVID-19 hit. Since the beginning of the pandemic this has worsened as much elective, or planned, care paused earlier this year. The impact of this pandemic on levels of unmet need is difficult to quantify, but it is a huge concern for me as Health Minister. Therefore, I have established an Access to Care Fund of €210 million and will be allocating a budget of €130 million to the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF). It will empower our GPs and provide access to more than 130,000 additional diagnostic tests.”

There will be €147 million to reform the way care is delivered through the accelerated implementation of national strategies, including the National Maternity Strategy 2016 -2026, A Trauma System for Ireland; the National Ambulance Service Strategic Plan, Paediatric services including the new children’s hospital, Organ Donation and Transplant Services, The Women’s Health Taskforce, Taskforce on Staffing and Skill Mix for Nursing, Sláintecare Contract, Public Health Workforce, National Positive Ageing Strategy, Housing Options for our Ageing Population, National Dementia Strategy, National Carers Strategy, Palliative Care Strategy; COVID-19 Nursing Homes Expert Panel and the National Cancer Strategy2017-2026, which will receive €20 million.

A total of €50m has been earmarked for new drugs, €20m for Healthy Ireland, €58m for eHealth and ICT infrastructure as key drivers of the effective and efficient flow of health information.

There will be€147 million to reform the way care is delivered through the accelerated implementation of national strategies.

Minister of State with responsibility for Mental Health and Older People, Ms. Mary Butler said more than €1 billion had been allocated to mental health in Budget 2021, an increase of €50 million on last year’s budget and comprised €38 million for new measures, including the continuation of COVID-19 supports, and €12 million to meet existing needs. “Of the €38 million, €23 million will be allocated to commence implementation of ‘Sharing the Vision – A Mental Health Policy for Everyone,’ including enhancement of mental health community teams, child and adolescent mental health services, crisis resolution services, development of clinical care programmes and investment in peer support workers and employment supports. A total of €15 million will be dedicated to reinforcing our response to the additional mental health challenges posed by COVID-19. As part of this response, investment will be made in step down beds in the community, e-mental health supports, supporting the NGO sector in providing critical mental health services, in addition to capital works. There will be 5 million additional home care hours, over National Service Plan 2020 levels and €12.9 million of the additional funding allocated to older persons in Budget 2021 will be dedicated to enhancing dementia focussed services and supports. The integrated model of community care being proposed under Budget 2021 is a key part of implementing Sláintecare and delivers on Government’s commitment to implementing the recommendations of the Nursing Homes Expert Panel.”

Minister of State with Responsibility for Public Health, Wellbeing and the National Drugs Strategy, Mr. Frank Feighan TD said funding of €20 million was being allocated for Healthy Ireland, “a vital Sláintecare initiative that empowers people to take responsibility for their own health and supports individuals and communities to live healthier lives, including funding for our national obesity strategy, healthy eating policies, and smoking cessation and alcohol reduction programmes. There would be a €12 million investment in our public health workforce, who have done such vital work during the pandemic.”

There would be €10 million in additional funding to expand the availability of drug and alcohol services across the country, including community-based services and residential treatment programmes. The funding would also provide health supports for over 2,000 people who were homeless with complex health needs, and increase access to health services for Roma, Travellers, asylum seekers and other vulnerable groups. There would be €4.2 million to continue to support the additional 700 people who were put on opioid substitution treatment as a contingency measure during COVID-19.

Minister of State with responsibility for Disability, Ms. Anne Rabbitte TD said the budget investment of €100m in disability services was unprecedented. It would deliver more timely intervention for children and young people by providing 100 additional posts for children’s therapeutic services. It would build the capacity of our adult disability services and increase day services by one day a week, for those whose services were reduced due to COVID-19. It would also support around 1,700 young people who leave school and training programmes in 2021. New residential places would be provided for persons with a disability, while the provision of intensive support packages would support persons with complex needs to enable them to remain in their own community. There would be a renewed focus on assisting people to move out of congregated settings to homes in the community and addressing the inappropriate placement of young people with disabilities in nursing homes Increased community support would help to keep people living in their own homes through increased and alternative models of respite, intensive support packages, and additional PA hours. There would be €20 million is being made available on a once off basis in the current year to support voluntary disability service providers engaged in the Transforming Lives Reform programme.