DoH 'Can't Afford' Increasing Pressures

The Permanent Secretary of the Department of Health has said the health service simply cannot afford growing costs.

Local health and social care trusts are expected to face a £20 million deficit this financial year, as demands for investment to slash waiting lists, increase wages and recruit more staff pile up.

Delivering a speech at a conference for the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, Richard Pengelly hit out at claims the Department is choosing not to invest in areas of need.

"Why wouldn't I want to reduce waiting lists, increase pay for hard pressed staff and reduce the pressure on those staff by recruiting and training more colleagues? Why wouldn't I want to improve mental health provision and focus on suicide prevention, commission new drugs for patients with cancer and other serious conditions?
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"The truth is I simply can't afford to do all these things – in fact, I can't afford to do all the things we currently do.

"And with a fixed budget, I can only do more in some areas by doing less in others. And that is the key challenge."

It's expected the deficit represents only a small amount of pressures and demands likely to face health care in the coming months and years.

Mr Pengelly continued: "Currently these are presented to me with frustration – the argument being that because I don't do something, it means I don't want to do it. That is certainly not the case."

The health chief called for society-wide collaboration on budgetary priorities and how best to allocate limited resources.

"In the next year alone, the competing demands and pressures could between them add hundreds of millions to an already very stretched health budget," Mr Pengelly concluded.


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