The Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly, Minister for Public Health, Wellbeing and the National Drugs Strategy, Hildegarde Naughton, and Minister for Mental Health and Older People, Mary Butler, have announced a €22.5 billion health services budget in 2024 that will facilitate the continued delivery and expansion of quality, affordable healthcare services.

The significant allocation includes a Health Resilience Fund which will support service delivery in response to high inflation and increased patient demand among an expanding and ageing population.

Budget 2024 will provide:

  • €500 million to tackle waiting lists, including opening, and staffing six new surgical hubs.
  • Expansion of the free contraception scheme to include women aged 17 – 31.
  • Increased funding for mental health, including additional staff for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) teams.
  • Increased funding for digital health.
  • The first full-year programme of publicly-funded Assisted Human Reproduction services including in vitro fertilisation (IVF).
  • €36.3 million package of surge measures to respond to periods of heightened demand across acute and community services.

Announcing the measures, Minister Donnelly said, “patients must always be at the core of healthcare delivery, and I’m determined that Budget 2024 funding will continue to deliver targeted investment that provides patients with the right care in the right place and at the right time. It allows us to build on the progress of the past three years which have led to significantly reduced costs and increased capacity in our healthcare service. This record investment has provided more than 22,000 health and social care staff and more than 1,000 permanent beds since 2020.”

“We’ve implemented several initiatives that remove cost as a barrier to healthcare including the abolition of all public hospital in-patient charges, the expansion of eligibility for GP visit cards, reduction of the monthly Drug Payment Scheme threshold and the introduction of the free contraception scheme. I’m pleased to confirm that no person will age out of this scheme as the age limit is now being extended from 30 to 31. However, we must keep moving forward. The 2024 Health budget is reflective of our expanding and ageing population and the increased impact this has on healthcare resources.”

“It will allow us to further expand capacity, including opening and staffing six new surgical hubs, as part of a generous package to tackle waiting lists. I am also allocating €36.3 million to a package of surge measures to ensure our health service can respond to times of increased demand for urgent and emergency care. As we move towards the regionalisation of our health service, my priority is ensuring that we continue to respond to the health needs of our population, by delivering a quality, equitable service for all.”

Budget 2024 also contains several health promotion and prevention measures through Healthy Ireland as well as funding for the continued implementation of the National Drugs Strategy.

Minister Naughton said, “the health of the population depends not just on the delivery of quality healthcare, but also on the promotion of healthy lifestyles which help maximise our wellbeing. A key vehicle for achieving this is our Healthy Ireland Programme. Our budget for the fund in 2023 was just over €14 million, and I am delighted to announce that I have secured an additional €2.3 million for 2024, bringing the total to some €16.5 million. This represents an increase of 16%.”

“Separately, I am particularly pleased to announce that I have secured funding to develop new walking trails in communities, building on the success of the GAA Walking Tracks initiative which I announced earlier this year. I have also secured funding to develop facilities to support outdoor swimming. Some €1 million will be provided for these initiatives.”

Minister Naughton added, “since my appointment to the Department of Health just nine months ago I have met with people who use drugs, some of whom are living with addiction, their family members, loved ones and interest groups from right across the country. One key message I have received is that we need to change how we think about and tackle drug misuse and addiction here in Ireland. This year I have already ensured that core funding for our Drug and Alcohol Taskforces and Section 39 organisations increased by €3.5 million. In addition, I provided €1.5 million in funding for the first time ever towards a drug and alcohol awareness programme. Preventative education is paramount in our fight against the misuse of drugs in Ireland.”

“For 2024, we will deliver ground-breaking services never before provided. They include Dual Diagnosis hubs which will support the recovery of young people with drug dependency and mental health issues, and dedicated funding for services for people on the road to recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, to support their integration into everyday life through housing, employment, education and other supports. It is important to note that in the last two years alone funding for our Drug and Alcohol Taskforces has increased by almost €10 million. I am keen that we continue to build on this so as to ensure the fantastic care that is provided from within the community is supported. In total next year the State will invest in excess of €145 million on drug and alcohol addiction services.”

The 2024 Health Budget will see spending on Mental Health rise to almost €1.3 billion. This is the fourth consecutive year that an increase has been provided to support mental health services, and highlights in real terms the importance this government places on the mental health of those living in Ireland.

Minister Butler said, “mental health funding I have secured today is a leap forward in terms of tackling youth mental health and the continued roll-out of Sharing the Vision, our national mental health policy. This year’s mental health budget is primarily focused around improving supports available to young people, improved access and the reduction in waiting lists for services. I continue to work closely with the new Youth Mental Health Office in the HSE.”

For the Older Persons 2024 Budget, a total of €2.621 billion has been secured, including increases for nursing homes, Meals on Wheels services as well as for weekend activity clubs for people with young-onset dementia.

Minister Butler added, “Budget 2024 is the largest allocation ever for older person services. I am very proud that we have the highest life expectancy in the EU, as determined by the World Health Organisation. Investment in Day Care, Meals on Wheels, dementia supports, home support and nursing home care has continued in this Budget. In 2024 we expect to deliver 22 million hours of home support. This is more than has ever been delivered before.”