Stephen Donnelly promises ‘in-depth report’ on future costs of healthcare after budget row

HSE chief said last week the health allocation was ‘not adequate for all current costs’

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said he is commissioning an “in-depth report” into the future costs of healthcare.

Mr Donnelly said the report would have to consider factors such as medical inflation, post pandemic patient demand, wars in Europe as well as modern innovations, artificial intelligence and breakthrough medicines.

Speaking in the Dáil on Thursday, the minister said that a supplementary health budget for next year was “entirely possible”, adding “we simply do not know at this point” what level of demand and inflation would be seen.

Mr Donnelly also said HSE chief executive Bernard Gloster was “absolutely within his rights” to give his views publicly in relation to the challenges he sees in running the health service next year.


He said that Mr Gloster “has my full support in having made the comments that he made”.

The Irish Independent had reported that Government ministers were privately furious at Mr Gloster’s criticism of the health service budget and his briefing of Opposition TDs.

Mr Gloster said last week that next year’s health budget was “not adequate for all current costs”. Mr Donnelly had sought around €2 billion in extra funding for health services in 2024, but was allocated just €800 million in last week’s Budget.

A freeze on the recruitment of junior doctors, healthcare assistants, home helps and other grades in the health service has been put in place by the HSE to address overspending in the sector.

Tánaiste Micheál Martin said during Leaders’ Questions earlier that he fully respected the right of the HSE’s chief executive to comment on the budget and to brief TDs and that he was not the first to do so.

“I have no issue with the new CEO engaging with public representatives or indeed doing interviews,” Mr Martin said. “He is a very experienced public servant.”

Mr Martin also said there had been €7.5 billion in additional health funding since 2020, while there was a need for a deeper analysis of healthcare expenditure.

Labour leader Ivana Bacik said it was “extremely serious” that the Minister for Health had announced a recruitment freeze during an “acknowledged staffing crisis”.

“This is a hammer blow to all those who work in the HSE who tell us how under-resourced they are,” she said.

“It is a hammer blow to Bernard Gloster who says that patients will be harmed without the recruitment of additional staff.

“Most of all, it is a hammer blow to the people of Ireland and those who are now wondering whether they will have access to health services if and when they need them.”

Sinn Féin’s health spokesman David Cullinane said the Government was attempting to “control the narrative, change the story, shift the blame” but certainly not “fix the problem that they created with the chronic and very deliberate underfunding of our health services”.

Mr Cullinane said despite statements from Government ministers, the necessary funding needed just for the health service to stand still next year had not been provided.

Social Democrats TD Róisín Shortall said the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DEPR) was “a disgrace” and “by far the most conservative department in this country”.

Ms Shortall said the department didn’t seem to “have any appreciation at all” that it had a role in relation to reform. She said some of the HSE’s structural problems were “largely down to the failure of DEPR to actually understand what providing a decent health service is about”.

People Before Profit TD Gino Kenny said there would be consequences for those who rely on services in terms of the budget shortfall and the recruitment freeze.

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times