An unprecedented extra €4 billion is being made available for the health service in Budget 2021.

This funding will provide capacity for 100,000 tests a week, supply PPE where needed and continue into 2021 all of the necessary Covid-19 Action Plan measures which have been in place since March.

Minister for Public Expenditure, Michael McGrath, told the Dáil that as well as dealing with Covid-19, "we must build up permanent capacity and resilience in the health service in line with the Health Service Capacity Review and the funding I am making available today will allow significant progress in this direction".

The Department of Health and the HSE will deliver the following changes next year: 

  •  An additional 1,146 acute beds
  •  An increase in permanent adult critical care beds from 255 pre-Covid to 321 by end 2021
  •  1,250 community beds in 2021 which includes over 600 new rehabilitation beds
  •  5 million additional homecare hours following on from the 19 million provided in 2020. This will help alleviate community waiting lists for home care and support hospital avoidance and delayed discharges
  •  2021 funding will support the implementation of the Sláintecare Public-Only Consultant Contract and for the accelerated implementation of a number of national strategies, including the National Cancer Strategy, the National Maternity Strategy, the National Trauma Strategy; as well as the roll-out of other social care strategies
  •  €5 million will be dedicated to the development of community-based dementia services and supports
  •  Funding is also provided to cancer screening to create greater resilience in the cancer services pathway
  •  €50 million is being made available for new drugs; and €25 million for Healthy Ireland and the National Drugs Strategy

Minister McGrath said the funding will support immediate actions to address waiting lists with approximately 100,000 additional inpatient and day care procedures through investment in public hospitals and utilisation of spare capacity in Private Hospitals and via the National Treatment Purchase Fund.

The Minister said mental health services are being prioritised in this Budget, "especially given the very difficult year we are experiencing". €38 million will be available to implement new measures under Sharing the Vision, our national mental health strategy.

Another priority area for the government is the area of disability services, he said. €100 million is being provided for new disability measures next year. "This will provide supports for approximately 1,700 school leavers, deliver the resumption of day services, promote disability integration and deliver respite services, de-congregation and increase personal assistant hours."

These measures will be supported by up to 16,000 additional posts across the health sector. 

Minister McGrath also confirmed that Ireland has signed up to EU advance purchase agreements in respect of potential Covid-19 vaccines so that when a medically approved vaccine becomes available, we will be in a position to benefit from it.

"The professionalism and spirit of our healthcare and frontline workers has been inspiring," he said. "Our rapid move to telephone triages, online prescribing, shorter hospital stays and innovative community care measures, have also unlocked a path forward for us in modernising our public health system, and we must move forward along this path in 2021 and over future years."