The Department of Health is to be given a budget of €13.1bn in 2015, according to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

Speaking in the Dáil, Brendan Howlin said this would include the provision of additional staff for those seeking to access mental health services in primary care.

More than €3bn will be used to "support older people and disabled services" during the year, while €2.3bn would be allocated for prescription drugs.

Mr Howlin said that more than 2.1 million people will have a medical or GP visit card next year, a figure boosted by the extension of GP coverage to those under six and over 70-years-old.

The minister paid tribute to hospital services and staff, saying that staffing levels had remained at 2011 levels in recent years, despite an increase demand on services during that time.