Fianna Fáil Health Spokesperson Billy Kelleher has welcomed a number of measures in Budget 2018 that were key commitments for his party in the last general election.
“Obviously we will need to see the full details as per the HSE Service Plan, but as an initial response, Fianna Fáil can be happy that many of its key priorities have been included in Budget 2018.
“The increased funding for the National Treatment Purchase Fund is very welcome. We made repeated calls for its restoration and resourcing prior to 2016 but the calls were ignored by former Ministers Reilly and Varadkar.
“We secured its reactivation in the Confidence and Supply Arrangement last year and its funding will increase to €55 million in 2018. We believe that this can have a substantial impact in reducing waiting times. From 2002 to 2010, the average waiting time for elective treatment in 2010 was reduced to just 2.6 months by the then Fianna Fáil government.
“I also welcome the reduction in the prescription charge. This too was a manifesto pledge on our part. The charges were increased five-fold by the previous government despite a promise to abolish them. The 50 cent reduction is a start and Fianna Fáil is committed to their eventual phasing out.
“The reduction in the Drug Payment Threshold has also been Fianna Fáil policy for some time now and I am pleased to see that it is to be reduced from €144 to €134 per month. As with the prescription charge change, it’s a good start but more needs to be done in future budgets.
“Obviously more details will emerge when the HSE publishes its 2018 Service Plan. While there is more we would like to do, it is clear that our influence has been positive and will hopefully have a beneficial impact in 2018.
“Inpatient waiting lists fell in each of the last two months, and with real focus through the Treatment Purchase Fund we can do more again next year.
“The challenges in the health service will require a Government that is committed to both increased targeted investment and a willingness to reform the way things are done in our health service.
“All too often Minister Harris has been too slow in responding to challenges in the health service. This needs to change,” concluded Kelleher.