The increased health funding announced as part of Budget 2021 is steering Ireland towards Sláintecare, according to health economists and workers on the ground.
Sláintecare is the ten-year programme aimed at transforming Ireland’s health and social care services.
According to the Sláintecare website, it is the roadmap for building a world-class health and social care service for the Irish people.
An extra €4bn in funding for health services was announced in Budget 2021 on Tuesday, with funding going towards tackling key capacity issues, staff shortages and community initiatives.
Cork GP and City Councillor, Dr John Sheehan (FF), welcomed the funding for the health sector, saying it is an important step on the road to Sláintecare.
“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 Sláintecare 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.” Health Economist at University College Cork, Dr Brian Turner, emphasised the importance of the funding being allocated to increase permanent capacity, not just the capacity to tackle Covid-19.
“That’s something that has been talked about over the last couple of years in both Slaintecare and the Health Service Capacity Review but it looks like they’re now actually starting to act on it,” he said.
“Looking at the extra 1,146 acute beds, that’s nearly half the additional capacity that the HSCR was calling for over the course of Sláintecare.
Looking ahead to future budgets, Dr Turner explained that this funding increase for the health sector cannot be followed by a return to underinvestment.
“In a number of years when the pandemic may be over and we can return to a normal scenario, there may be an attempt to reign in public spending once again,” he said.
“However, the money spent on additional staff and additional beds will be recurring spending at that time so they can’t just turn that tap off.
“It can’t go back to the way it was,” he added.
“This recurring spending was planned for in Sláintecare so I’m sure the government is aware of that and is aware that future health budgets are going to be that bit bigger.”