Varadkar: mental health will still receive €792 million funding this year

Part of €35m increase will be transferred to other parts of health service, however

Leo Varadkar insists mental health services will still be funded to the tune of almost €792million this year.

Earlier today the Health Minister had confirmed that some of the €35million increase in funding for mental health services this year will be moved to other areas but will be transferred back in 2017.

He says it's because the money was earmarked for 1,500 extra staff, and not all those could be hired on January 1st.

Minister Varadkar said: "€35million will be fully provided for in the base budget for next year. And the key task is to ensure we get best value from this investment, and to make sure it benefits the greatest number of people possible.

"I don't believe there is anything to be gained from setting one part of the health service against the other part."

The Health Minister says the money which was earmarked for recruitment of extra staff can't be spent in 2016 and he says the transfer was well flagged in the HSE's service plan.

He says the money was earmarked to provide an extra 1,550 staff for mental health but as these couldn't all be filled from January 1st and the savings are going to be transferred elsewhere.

He promised that the full €35 million will be restored to mental health for 2017.

In the Dáil today, Sinn Féin's Caoimhghín O'Caoláin isn't impressed.

"This is absolutely deplorable," he said. "I echo the criticism of mental health reform who very rightly point out that there is absolutely parity of esteem shown between mental and physical health."

Mr Varadkar also said there has been an almost 7% increase in attendances at accident and emergency departments in the first three months of the year.

He says despite this the majority of people are being seen in an appropriate time.