Increased health funding announced in Budget 2021 has been welcomed but GPs and pharmacists have emphasised the need for funding to be allocated to primary care as well as acute care.
Some €4 billion in funding for the health sector was announced on Tuesday, aimed at boosting capacity and staff with 16,000 extra healthcare posts, some 1,146 extra acute beds and more than 300 extra critical care beds.
Funding will also go towards providing five million additional homecare hours and 100,000 additional inpatient and day care procedures while €50m will be made available for new drugs.
Cork GP and City Councillor, Dr John Sheehan (FF), welcomed the funding for the health sector.
“We’re in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic so it’s understandable to see funding allocated towards increasing capacity,” he said.
“Overall I think it’s a reasonable budget.
“I would welcome the fact that it is steering us closer to Slaintecare which is needed,” he added.
“If we’ve learned anything during the Covid crisis, it’s that there is a huge need for a one integrated health care system.” Dr Sheehan also welcomed the almost €40m in funding allocated for mental health services, announced on Tuesday.
“We have been seeing more and more mental health problems so this funding is welcome,” he said.
“I think mental health has previously been the Cinderella in terms of health funding so it is good to see the importance of it being recognised and funding going towards it.”
While Dr Sheehan also welcomed the funding to provide additional home care hours, he expressed the need for more primary care and public health resources.
“Certainly I would have liked to see more funding for primary care, particularly public health nurses,” he said.
“It’s important that we try to keep people in their homes where possible.
“From that point of view, I would welcome the additional home care and home help hours,” he added.
“However, I would have liked to have seen more support for primary care, particularly in rural areas, in terms of public health nursing and for GPs as well as primary care supports.
“But overall, I can understand where they’re coming from in terms of trying to increase capacity in the current climate.” The Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) which represents over 2,200 pharmacists across the country, also welcomed the increase in healthcare spending but said it must be delivered in communities as well as hospitals.
“Today we heard details of an unprecedented €4 billion spending increase in healthcare,” said IPU Secretary General Darragh O’Loughlin.
“This has potential to do a huge amount of good, not only in dealing with the current crisis, but also responding to future healthcare needs.
“However, while any increase in healthcare spending is welcome the government must do more than pour money into the hospital system while paying only lip service to primary and community-based care,” he added.
“The Covid crisis has shown us the importance of increasing capacity in our hospitals.
“Doing this effectively requires more than just adding beds.
“We must also improve the care we can deliver in local communities, care which comes without the complexity and expense of hospitals.
“Indeed, the move to innovative community care was cited during today’s budget speech.
“This is at the heart of Sláintecare and it is disappointing that this appears to be largely overlooked yet again.”