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Budget increase welcome but multi-annual funding required – IMO

By Mindo - 13th Oct 2020

Female doctor arm hold silver pen filling patient complaints list clipped to pad. Physical exam er disease prevention ward round visitor check prescribe remedy healthy lifestyle concept

The IMO has welcomed a number of initiatives in Budget 2021 but emphasised the need for multi annual funding.

The Organisation said the 2021 budget “begins to address the shortfall in beds and the move of care to the community”.

However, it must be accompanied by a guaranteed, multi-annual investment to increase bed numbers by at least 5,000 “over a relatively short period of time, while at the same time increasing resources in the community to allow GPs to deliver appropriate well-resourced care locally”.

An extra €4 billion for the health service was confirmed in budget 2021, announced today.

IMO President Dr Padraig McGarry said: “We remain deeply concerned about the crisis in medical manpower and whether there are real plans to tackle this.  Nevertheless we recognise the scale of the investment announced today.  It is tragic that it took a pandemic to finally get the investment that our health services have needed for over a decade. While we absolutely welcome any additional investment this cannot be once off expenditure and must continue to improve year on year until we have the capacity we need.”

According to the IMO, it is “critical that we have a health service that can deliver both Covid and non Covid care so we welcome the investment in trauma, maternity and cancer services”.

However, it expressed “grave concerns” around the waiting lists and the “ongoing policy of diverting huge sums of money to the private system” through NPTF to deliver care. 

“We must develop a sustainable funding model, accompanied by appropriate staffing numbers to deliver care within our public health services.  Similarly it is critical that investment in mental health services is directed to the services under extreme pressure.”

The IMO said that Government should view health spending as an enabler of economic recovery.  “We hope that this investment will be the first step on a meaningful road to recovery for our services.  The IMO wants to see any budgetary investment frontloaded so that any improvements can happen quickly. “

According to Dr McGarry: “To have a health system that really works for patients we must have consultant led multi-disciplinary teams across both the acute sector, community health services and public health departments but at the moment we have 500 vacant consultant posts across the HSE and no public health consultants. 

“Our inability to recruit doctors is driven by a wholly discriminatory and damaging pay policy and this Budget does nothing to address that.  Additionally we need to bring in creative measures to attract new GPs into the systems particularly in circumstances where over 600 GPs are due to retire in the coming years.  And we must have appropriately resourced training pathways for our NCHDs or we will continue to see the exodus of doctors to health systems that value them and resource them to deliver care.”

The Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) has also welcomed the increase in healthcare spending but said it must be delivered in communities as well as hospitals.

IPU Secretary General Mr Darragh O’Loughlin said: “Today we heard details of an unprecedented €4 billion spending increase in healthcare. 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.

“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.

“The Irish Pharmacy Union had called on the Government to think innovatively and realise some of the health efficiencies that pharmacies could deliver. Unfortunately, today’s budget appears to lack any such innovation and is therefore a major missed opportunity.

“The IPU has consistently called for the introduction of a pharmacy-based chronic disease management programme and a minor ailment scheme. Both have been proven to work well in other countries, improving patients’ access to healthcare and reducing the burden on GPs and hospitals. This is just two of many examples of how pharmacies can improve our health service. We hope that as more detailed expenditure plans from the Department of Health are compiled, they will realise this potential.”

Meanwhile, the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA) said the announcement by Government of €50 million for new medicines next year “is a game-changer for patients with serious medical conditions”.

“The funding means doctors treating tens of thousands of patients for serious diseases such as breast, prostate and lung cancer, chronic leukaemia, Parkinson’s, melanoma and severe skin diseases will have over 50 new medicines available to them – some already approved by the Health Service Executive and many more in the pipeline for 2021.”

“The €50 million in funding that the Budget sets aside for new medicines next year is a game-changer for Irish patients,” said Mr Paul Reid, President of IPHA. “It means patients will have a greater range of breakthrough treatment options available to them for serious medical conditions and faster. The move is a clear statement that the current Government values medicines innovation – its potential transformational impact on improved healthcare outcomes and the role it plays in driving economic growth and jobs across the regions.”

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