An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, has claimed that one of the reasons we have overruns in the health service is down to what he described as a “recruitment surge rather than the recruitment crisis.” The Taoiseach also maintained that overspending can be attributed to the fact “that extra people are hired every year beyond what is provided for in budgets.”

The Taoiseach made the comments after he was asked about the most recent meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Health. During the debate he also clarified that the increase in healthcare spending for this year will be €1 billion.

To date, Fine Gael has increased health spending by €7billion annually since it came to office. This latest increase will mean that health spending has gone up by €8billion since 2011. To put this in context, €8billion is what the state spends, roughly, on primary and secondary education combined.

Since 2011, waiting lists have spiralled, and now over a million citizens are waiting on some form of treatment.

Pressed by the leader of Fianna Fail, Michéal Martin, on whether or not there would have to be supplementary budget to meet increased demand for further healthcare spending, the Taoiseach took the opportunity to note that when Deputy was a Minister there was a supplementary budget required in the region of €250 million.

He then went to remind the FF leader that the record for the biggest health supplementary ever required was under a Fianna Fáil led Government when about €1 billion had to be provided in a because of illegal nursing home charges.

The Taoiseach accepted however that there are, however, significant recruitment and retention challenges, especially in certain specialties such as psychiatry.

He also admitted that while several hundred consultant posts need to be filled, only 20 are currently being advertised. The reason given was that many of the posts are filled on a locum or temporary contract basis.