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Tony O'Brien with Leo Varadkar
Tony O'Brien with Leo Varadkar
Image: Sam Boal/

HSE publishes 2016 service plan with €100m shortfall for hospitals

The HSE says that a growing and ageing population is putting a strain on the service.
Dec 16th 2015, 1:20 PM 17,108 79

THE HSE HAS published its 2016 service plan today, which lays out its budget and budget allocations for next year, with the organisation predicting a €100 million funding shortfall for hospitals.

The plan details how the health service will spend its budget of just under €13 billion for 2016.

The budget marks a €817 million (6.7%) increase on last year’s budget. However, €720 million of that will go to maintaining existing services, as the HSE went significantly over budget this year.

The remaining €97 million will go to funding new service developments.

The costs of service are expected to far exceed the increase in budget, with the HSE saying that a substantial financial risk will have to managed within the plan.

The plan outlines that taking into account current spending and other factors such as the ageing and growing population, there will be a shortfall in the budget of €100 million for hospitals.

The organisation also predicts €10 million (0.08%) left for health service reform.

New EU fiscal rules for 2016 mean that the HSE will not be able to go over budget next year.


Key elements of the plan include:

  • €13.5 million to extend free access to GPs to all children aged six to 11 (subject to negotiations with the IMO);
  • €10 million extra provided for cancer services;
  • €35 million for further investment in mental health services;
  • Up to €10 million for health service reform;
  • €7.2 million extra provided for the National Ambulance Service, including €2 million to fund new staff.

Financial challenges

Tony O’Brien, Director General of the HSE said that 2015 would be a challenging year for the organisation, with increased demand from a growing and ageing population putting a strain on the service:

 It is our preference to seek to manage those financial challenges rather than seeking to reduce services which is not in the interests of those that rely on our services and is also very damaging for staff morale.

With the marginal increase in spending, O’Brien said that it would be important to exercise cost control to manage the financial risk.

tony Tony O'Brien and Dr Susan Reilly Source: Mark Stedman/

“The next year will be about striking a balance between the financial challenges we face while providing an increased focus on quality, safety, access and reform,” he said.

Cost saving

The plan also outlines how 50,000 fewer full medical cards will be issued next year, instead of the 125,000 figure that was contained in an earlier draft.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland this morning, Health Minister Leo Varadkar said that there would be no changes in the income limits or the acceptance guidelines for people seeking medical cards.

“During the recession the number of people who were entitled to medical cards increased dramatically,” said the minister.

Increased from about 28% of the population to 40% and that’s because people lost their jobs, they became unemployed – they and their families became entitled to medical cards.

“That is now going the other way. So more people are back at work and more people’s incomes are going up,” he said.

leo Minister Varadkar Source:

Minister Varadkar outlined that no new reviews or changes would be put in place in 2016 and that the reduction in numbers of medical card holders would be purely because of the improving economy.


The reduced number is based on projections for 2016, with Minister Varadkar stating that 40,000 fewer medical cards were issued in 2015.

The HSE initially predicted that 125,000 fewer cards would be issued but this was revised yesterday at a Cabinet meeting.

“There was a concern at Cabinet level… that that figure seems too big,” said Minister Varadkar.

People would have a concern that there was some secret plan afoot to actively reduce the the number of medical cards. That is not the case.

Read: ‘A patient could come in with a heart attack and wait on a trolley’: Life for Ireland’s emergency department nurses

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