People who earn the median household income of €46,000 or less will be eligible for a free GP card under a new Budget measure.

The figure is net household income, after tax.

Over 430,000 free GP cards are due to be issued from next April.

At a briefing today Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said the Budget's health allocation of €23.4bn for next year was the highest in the history of the State.

He said he would like to see the new public only Sláintecare consultant contract in place in a few weeks.

It would be an attractive contract and there was a need to expand consultant numbers, probably by 2,000 posts, he said.

Mr Donnelly said that a lot of issues have been ironed out in talks with consultants but there were some outstanding issues.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said that Section 39 organisations, nursing homes and hospices will be eligible to receive once-off extra support this winter from the once-off health sector fund of €100m, announced yesterday.

He said this fund is being allocated by Government to provide specific winter support to these organisations which they are currently facing.

On plans to provide €10m for access to IVF treatments next year, Minister Donnelly said that how it will work, the criteria and who will qualify, have still to be determined.

He said it would be phased in and involve public services and private services also.

Mr Donnelly said it would take a number of years to fully build up the public system, so finding will be provided to assist women access private care.