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25/08/2017

Serious Concerns Raised Over Health Cuts

Serious concerns have been raised after five health trusts in Northern Ireland unveiled plans to make £70 million of cuts.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has called on all political parties to come together in the talks to "agree an implementation for health service transformation".

The trusts that have been asked to make cuts are:

• £26.3m - Belfast Health Trust

• £13m - Northern Health Trust

• £12.5m - Western Health Trust

• £10.85m - South Eastern Health Trust

• £6.4m - Southern Health Trust

Mr Eastwood said: "Health must not be a political football but health is suffering as a result of political failure. 

"At the meetings across the North, we heard other political parties duck and dive their responsibilities. But let's be clear, Health is a devolved matter and if those who have already abdicated responsibility to take on the British Government in Westminster, really want to fight against austerity, they cannot abdicate responsibility here too. Devolution can work, but those with the big mandates to govern need to decide if they are up for the challenge of government. 

"There is no more critical issue than the health of the people we represent. In the coming days, all political parties must turn their minds to that."

Sinn Féin, North Belfast MLA Carál Ní Chuilín opposed the planned cuts.

She said: "Many of the proposals outlined are completely unacceptable and would represent a direct attack on frontline services for some of our most vulnerable citizens, including cuts to hundreds of care packages for 75 year-olds, and will be fiercely opposed by Sinn Féin.

"These cuts are not the result of the crisis at Stormont – they are the result of austerity policies conceived and implemented by a Tory cabinet in London. So it's not weasel words from James Brokenshire we need, it's our money back.

"Of course a sustainable and properly resourced local Executive would help mitigate against the worst impact of austerity but the DUP continue to block its restoration through their insistence on discrimination against many sections of our society."

Former Health Minister Edwin Poots has called on parties to work together to take a proactive approach to helping our health system.
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He said: "Some of the suggestions for savings from health trusts are alarming, and my colleagues and I will be taking time to study them in detail over the next few days.
The DUP is willing to be around the Executive table tomorrow, taking much-needed decisions and trying a chart a way through the challenges.

"It is clear for all to see that a region can't have an absence of Government without there being consequences. Jumping up and down at meetings and trying to play to the gallery isn't going to have the necessary effect, and the public see through it. What is required is a Government, and firm action by Government Ministers.

"Sinn Fein failed to bring forward a budget before they collapsed the Executive, and desperately needed health reforms have been stymied over the last year."

Ulster Unionist Health Spokesperson, Roy Beggs MLA, said: "These emergency cuts will mean people waiting longer for treatments and people having to remain in hospitals for longer than they need to and therefore not allowing those beds to become available for other patients.

"Northern Ireland already has by far the worst waiting times anywhere in the United Kingdom, so these additional cuts will have a direct impact on the quality and safety of patient care. More lives will be lost, as local health officials themselves warn - spiralling waiting times can lead to severely delayed diagnoses of life threatening illnesses. The shocking reality of where we are in 2017 is that for some of those people waiting, such as the 64,000 local outpatients waiting longer than a year for their first appointment with a consultant, some now have a reduced likelihood of a successful outcome as a result of the delays.

"The Health Trusts have been told they have to find these savings. Whilst some decisions such as using other cheaper medications are welcome, others such as slashing intermediary beds and restricting domiciliary care packages run completely contrary to what all the evidence suggests we should be doing. This short-termism may well save some money this year but will end up costing us far more in the longer-term. The vision of Transforming Your Care appears to be dead. 

"These proposals are not based on what was best for patients, rather they were decided on which saved the most amount of money in the quickest time. That is no way to run the NHS."

(CD/LM)

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