The health service is to get over €15.2bn in funding for day-to-day services next year, it's highest budget.

Of this, around €640m is in extra funding.

A new access programme will see €75m go to help cut waiting lists over the next two years.

From this fund, €20m will be used this year and €55m will be for the National Treatment Purchase Fund next year.

Simon Harris said the NTPF budget, which is three times that of its allocation last year, will be used to target "longest waiters" for hospital procedures, as well as using spare capacity in public hospitals such as Cappagh and the Eye and Ear hospital.

Speaking on RTÉ's Budget 2018, he said the Government's ten-year capital plan, to be published by the end of this year, will direct the long-term vision of how to increase bed capacity.

The minister said he wants more money directed towards primary care so that more can be done in the community and by GPs.

Funding of €40m is to be provided over the next two years to expand hospital capacity and for winter initiative measures.

The health budget provides for around 1,800 extra staff across all services.

There will be a reduction in prescription charges for all medical card holders under 70 from €2.50 per item to €2 per item with a subsequent reduction in the monthly cap from €25 to €20.

For others who pay privately for drugs each month, the maximum amount payable under the Drug Payments Scheme will reduce by €10 to €134 a month.

A €25m Primary Care Fund is being provided to develop GP services, for community intervention schemes and for a new GP contract.

The Minister for Health, Simon Harris said this fund will begin the shift of services from acute hospitals to primary care.

A new GP contract has yet to be negotiated but could see free GP care extended to those under 12 years of age.

An extra €37m is to be spent on home care places and transitional care beds.

There will be €35m for mental health services.

In reaction to Budget 2018, the National Association of GPs said family doctors will now consider some form of industrial action.

It said the Government has failed to address the escalating crisis in general practice.

The Irish Medical Organisation described the health budget as deeply disappointing and regressive.

The union said the claim that this is the biggest health budget ever is nothing but spin.

IMO President Dr Ann Hogan said the budget will not even keep pace with rising health demands and the health service will worsen.

The Private Hospitals Association welcomed the commitment to spend more on tackling waiting lists through the NTPF.

But CEO Simon Nugent added: "While acknowledging the €50m NTPF commitment for 2018 came in last year's budget, it is regrettable that the Government has not committed to a further increase to at least €100m in 2019 and 2020 as we had called for in our pre-budget submission.

"Forward planning and multi-year funding is essential if we are to make a real impact on waiting list numbers which now stand at 679,000."