The Health Service Executive (HSE) has unveiled details of its budget for next year, totaling €14.5bn.
Funding for the National Service Plan represents an overall increase of €608m (4.4%) compared to 2017.
The Department of Health says the additional investment has allowed for a number of investments in new services, including:
- €9m to support the expansion of paediatric/adolescent orthopaedic services including scoliosis
€25m in primary care to support the GP contract, GP training, diagnostics, therapies, nursing, Advanced Nurse Practitioner appointments and community nursing
€15m in mental health to support a range of key service developments
€10m for respite care, providing support in 2018 to 400 individuals with a disability and their families
A total of €40.2m will be put towards acute hospital services.
The HSE says it will be using this funding to improve access to critical care services, along with investment in services for people with Spina Bifida and spinal conditions.
Health services for women and infants will also be expanded through increased scanning and gynaecology services.
Cancer services nationally will receive a total of €5.5m - the HSE says this will allow for the expansion of services including radiotherapy treatment.
"This funding will provide ongoing investment in cancer drugs and with the numbers of patients now surviving their cancer following improved treatments and services, there will be further investment in the ongoing care for those who are surviving cancer", it says.
Next year will also feature an additional investment of €32m in additional home support, transitional care and bed capacity in rehabilitation settings.
Home support and transitional care will also be increased over the full year.
The HSE says this will allow for:
- €18.25m for home support services to provide 754,000 hours to support 1,170 people to leave hospitals
€1.4m for rehabilitation and step down beds in Limerick (four beds) and Cork (30 beds)
€0.85m for complex case discharges from acute hospitals
€0.65m for an additional six beds in the National Rehabilitation Hospital
€0.45m for an out-reach specialist team and day hospital in Our Lady’s Campus, Cashel
Funding has also been provided on an on-going basis to support older people with dementia with high needs to continue to live in their own homes. A further €9m is being provided for Intensive Home Care Packages (IHCPs).
Also contained in the plan is the provision of €2.75m for the National Ambulance Services, to allow for an increase in the recruitment and training of additional paramedic staff and the expansion of aeromedical services.
In the area of mental health, €15m will be allocated aimed at enhancing community mental health team capacity, expanding out of hours responses for adult services, and expanding specialist responses for patients with severe and enduring mental health difficulties.
'A new direction'
HSE Director-General Tony O’Brien said: "For several years we have been aware of the need for a shift in health service delivery in order to move from the more traditional focus of treatment and cure, to that of prevention and treatment, when required.
"The challenges referenced in this service plan are recognised fully in the recent Sláintecare report, which signals a new direction of travel in relation to eligibility, delivery, and funding of health and social care in Ireland into the future.
"The cross-party support for Sláintecare presents a huge opportunity and, appropriately resourced and governed, it has the potential to transform the health and wellbeing of the population, and how and where they access services."
Health Minister Simon Harris said: "I’m also pleased that the HSE intends to refocus efforts to achieve the best outcomes and value for money through the establishment of a Value Improvement Programme.
"This will consider how to reduce the costs of delivering services without reducing the level or quality of the services provided.
"The plan is based on an increased budget of over €600m compared to 2017 and brings the total HSE budget to over €14.5bn.
"It represents the fourth year in a row where significant additional resources have been allocated to the health services."
Age Action, the organisation for older people, has welcomed the increased investment in homecare services.
Justin Moran, head of advocacy and communications, said: "Homecare in Ireland is in crisis. Waiting lists are growing and older people are forced into nursing homes because they are not being supported to live at home.
"The increased investment in home care supports outlined in today’s HSE Service Plan is undoubtedly welcome, as are plans to simplify the application process.
"But while the additional funding will help some families who are struggling to cope the scale of the crisis means we need far more resources to help older people stay at home, with their families, as long as possible."