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Budget Speech


Public Healthcare Services

164. The Government has been devoting a lot of resources on healthcare, of which the 2023-24 estimate reaches $104.4 billion, accounting for about 19 percent of the Government recurrent expenditure.  We will continue to enhance public healthcare services.  The HA will strengthen a series of services, such as enhancing clinical services for diseases including cancer, increasing public hospital beds, operating theatre sessions, etc.  Besides, the HA is continuing its rollout of measures to reduce the waiting time for specialist out-patient services, which include streamlining referral arrangements for cross-specialty cases, setting up integrated clinics to provide multi-disciplinary support, etc.  The HA will also introduce a new service for drug collection and delivery by phases, and further promote tele-consultation services.

Primary Healthcare

165. Primary healthcare is an integral part of the entire healthcare system, accounting for about 20% of the expenditure on public healthcare.  To balance healthcare resources and the over-concentration of pressure in public hospitals, the Government put forward the Primary Healthcare Blueprint (the Blueprint) at the end of last year, under which a series of key reform initiatives for enhancing Hong Kong's primary healthcare services are set out, and prevention‑oriented, community‑based, family centric, and early detection and intervention strategies are adopted.  The vision of the Blueprint is to improve the overall health of the general public by providing coherent and comprehensive healthcare services and establishing a sustainable healthcare system.

166. As introduced in the Blueprint, the Government will launch the Chronic Disease Co-Care Pilot Scheme and enhancement measures to the Elderly Health Care Voucher Scheme.  The Government will announce the details in the third quarter of this year.  I will set aside sufficient financial resources for the schemes.

Development of Chinese Medicine

167. Since the official launch of the Chinese Medicine Development Fund in 2019, more than 10 funding schemes have been rolled out to benefit various practitioners and organisations in the Chinese medicine sector.  The fund supports the holistic development of Chinese medicine in Hong Kong on all fronts, with its funding scope covering talent nurturing, facility and quality enhancement, registration of proprietary Chinese medicines as well as promotion and research of Chinese medicine.  The fund has also played a crucial role amid the epidemic in supporting community Chinese medicine practitioners to provide telemedicine consultation and rehabilitation treatment for discharged patients and recovered persons.

168. I plan to inject an additional amount of $500 million into the fund starting from this financial year to support the commissioning of large‑scale training, research and publicity projects on strategic themes and to take forward more capacity building programmes for the sector, which include making preparations for Hong Kong's first Chinese medicine hospital which is expected to commence services in 2025 and strengthening the role of Chinese medicine in the primary healthcare system.

Tobacco Control Policies

169. Smoking is hazardous to health.  Increasing tobacco duty is recognised internationally as the most effective means to reduce tobacco use.  It has been over 10 years since the last substantial increase in tobacco duty and its policy effect has been diluted gradually by inflation and various other factors.  At present, tobacco duty accounts for about 62 per cent of the retail price of cigarettes in Hong Kong, far lower than the rate of 75 per cent recommended by the World Health Organization.

170. To safeguard public health, I propose to increase the duty on cigarettes by 60 cents per stick with immediate effect.  Duties on other tobacco products will also be increased by the same proportion.  A rise in cigarette price will increase the incentive of smokers to reduce or quit smoking.  Our target is to bring the smoking prevalence rate down from the current 9.5 per cent to 7.8 per cent.  With this target in mind, we will continue to review the overall effectiveness of tobacco control measures, and in parallel step up efforts to promote smoking cessation as well as law enforcement against illicit cigarettes.



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