The Minister for Health, Dr James Reilly TD, today (15 October) set out the key elements of Budget 2014 for the health services.
“I am very happy to announce that I have secured additional funding of €37 million to provide for free GP care for children up to and including 5 years of age as a key element of this Government’s programme of health reform”, the Minister announced.
“This is part of our phased approach to the introduction of Universal Health Insurance and a significant step as part of our reform of the health services. Despite the challenging year which we face in 2014 in the health services, with savings to be made, I believe it is vital that we pursue our reform agenda. Free GP care is about delivering healthcare close to people in their communities, at the lowest levels of complexity and the lowest levels of cost. That is why I have prioritised free GP care for children aged 5 and under because I believe in our change agenda and it’s vital if we are to create a health service fit for the 21st century. Of course, I believe that this measure will benefit families and the 240,000 children aged five and under in Ireland today, in particular during these economically challenging times”.
“I am also pleased that we can continue to invest in mental health, with a further €20 million earmarked for mental health services in 2014, to be primarily used for community mental health teams”, said the Minister.
The 2014 provision for the health services is €13.660 billion (including €397 million in capital expenditure) and savings measures amounting to €666 million have been identified.
“Some difficult choices were required for 2014”, the Minister said. “While we are benefitting from the ongoing implementation of difficult decisions we took in 2013 – such as the Haddington Road Agreement – as well as the progressive and reforming decisions – such as generic substitution and reference pricing – additional savings measures will be required.”
The main additional measures are:
· Reduce income thresholds for over the over-70s medical card to €900 per week for a couple and €500 per week for a single person;
· Increase Prescription Charges to €2.50 per item with €25 cap
· Medical Card probity
· Instead of retention of full medical card on return to work, give GP visit card
The full list of savings measures is set out below.
“The Director General of the Health Services will now draft the 2014 Service Plan for the health services on the basis of this budget”, the Minister continued. “The need to ensure patient safety is recognised throughout the health services and it continues to be our shared key priority”.
“By implementing our programme of reform and by managing and controlling our budgets, we have managed to deliver high quality healthcare and meet increasing demands with less funding and less staff”, the Minister concluded. “Together with my colleagues, Minister Lynch and Minister White we have been working hard to achieve our shared goals. I commend the staff of the health services for their dedication and commitment. No one is in any doubt but that 2014 will be a challenging year but if we continue to implement reform and manage our costs, we will achieve our shared goal – a health service fit for our children and their children”.