Fianna Fáil Spokesperson for Health Billy Kelleher TD has expressed deep concern over the budget allocated to the health service for 2016.

Deputy Kelleher commented, “Minister for Health Leo Varadkar tried to put the best possible gloss on his budget this week, but the fact is there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the health budget allocation for 2016.

“Certainly by comparison to previous years the specific announcements were very limited. For example, for all previous budgets since 2011 there was a specific funding commitment on mental health. However this commitment was notably absent in budget 2016.

“Minister Varadkar has been granted a €280 million increase above the forecast out-turn of €12.9 billion for 2015. However this forecast out-turn remains uncertain with nearly two and a half months of the year left to run.

“Furthermore this exchequer increase of €280 million is actually less than the increase announced on budget day last year. This is an extraordinary failure on the part of Minister Varadkar when you consider the far more expansionary nature of Budget 2016 compared to its predecessor. Despite all of his commentary, opinion pieces and summer school outings where he expanded on the need for more resources, Minister Howlin gave him a smaller increase than last year.

“Minister Varadkar has also again failed to convince Minister Noonan of the merits of a sugar tax. If that’s the way Minister Varadkar is treated by those who hold the purse strings then there must be real doubts about his capacity to deliver in Cabinet.

“I an concerned that, with the new fiscal rules, the health service could face a major crisis next year. If a supplementary budget is required for the health allocation then Minister Varadkar will need to trundle around to other departments with a begging bowl. And if the revenue can’t be found, the cuts will start again. This is an alarming prospect.

“We won’t know the full details until the HSE Service Plan for 2016 is published. It is essential that this removes the uncertainty about services next year that Minister Varadkar has allowed develop.”