Varadkar confirms funds for mental health are being diverted
Acting Health Minister Leo Varadkar has confirmed that funding earmarked for mental health will be diverted elsewhere, but said the full €35m allocation will return next year.
Mr Varadkar was speaking in the Dáil after several TDs criticised the country's mental health services, with one, Fianna Fáil's John McGuinness, saying they are in "absolute chaos".
Sinn Féin's Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said it is "absolutely deplorable" that funding is to be taken from the additional €35m that had been ring-fenced for mental health.
Mr Varadkar said "claims of some sort of raid are entirely inaccurate". He said the overall budget for mental health is €791.6m. He said the €35m figure was an increase in "development funding" and that part of this was for recruitment.
Mr Varakdar said it wasn't possible to fill all the posts from January 1 so savings made from not hiring the staff will be transferred elsewhere. "The €35m will be fully provided for in the base budget for next year," he added.
Earlier Mr McGuinness claimed that people "under debt pressures" from banks have killed themselves and that mental health services aren't equipped to deal with the problem.
During the debate Mr Varadkar also said the first quarter of 2016 has seen patient numbers at emergency departments jump 6.7pc over the same period last year.
Clare GP and TD Michael Harty said the health system should "embrace technology" saying "virtual consultations" would prevent unnecessary hospital attendances. AAA-PBP TD Gino Kenny said there is a "crisis" in the Irish home care sector.