Minister for Health Dr James Reilly has said that a number of risks which the Department of Health and the HSE had previously identified as potential causes of overspending had come to pass.

Among the factors mentioned in this year's service plan were the delay in implementing the Haddington Road Agreement and the delay in introducing charges for private patients who occupy public beds.

Delays in applying cuts to professional fees under the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act were also mentioned in the plan.

Speaking at the Joint Committee on Health and Children, Mr Reilly said total extra funding needed at the moment for the HSE was €219m. 

However, he said that due to savings of €20m being found within the Department of Health, the next extra funding needed would be €199m.

Mr Reilly said the overspend was less than 1.6% of the health budget for 2013 and was a considerable achievement considering demand, demographic pressures and the need to ensure patient safety.

During the hearing, Mr Reilly also denied suggestions that there has been a targeting of discretionary medical cards.

He told the committee that he had issued instructions to the HSE that there should not be such a campaign.

Mr Reilly added that there had been a disparity in the system, with a low level of discretionary cards in certain parts of the country and other parts where the level was hugely high.

He said the system had to be run on a transparent rules set, but that there was compassion in it.

Salary top-ups

Mr Reilly also said his department will use all powers available to it to ensure public pay policy is adhered to.

Responding to questions about salary top-ups at the CRC and other Section 38 agencies, Mr Reilly said one of the avenues open to do this was through the service-level agreement with the individual bodies.

However he said he wanted to make sure it was done in a way that affected those in breach of rules relating to salaries, and not those who were using the service.