30/06/2009

BMA Warns Of 'Frontline' Service Cuts

A top NI doctor has today said that some vital services could disappear as cut-backs bite.

On the same day it was confirmed that a third Co Down child has contracted swine flu, the warning was issued by Dr Brian Patterson, (pictured).

The top medic chairs the BMA in Northern Ireland and said the current Review of Public Administration "did not release money promised for frontline services".

As a result, he said that some frontline health services in NI "will disappear" unless the Stormont Assembly re-thinks the amount of money made available to the health service.

He also criticised the amount of money "wasted" on agency nurses and doctors.

"We would get much better value by expanding the normal workforce," said Dr Patterson.

In his speech to the 500 delegates at the BMA's annual conference in Liverpool, Dr Patterson began by outlining that the Review of Public Administration has been completed.

Noting that the BMA has been supportive of the review, Dr Patterson said: "We are looking forward to the new streamlined structures delivering the promised quality health service.

"However, as we had feared, (it) did not release, in real terms, the promised tranche of money to reinvest in expansion of frontline services.

"The likelihood is that some services will disappear," he warned.
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"The BMA in Northern Ireland is keen to work with our Health Department to make sure that as many services as possible remain and that quality is maintained.

"For example, huge sums are wasted on agency nurses and doctors, and we would get much better value by expanding the normal workforce.

"This would result in less cost and more continuity of care for patients," he insisted.

Dr Patterson added: "The reliance on the private sector both inside and outside Northern Ireland is hugely expensive and we must find ways of delivering timely care without these luxuries which we can't afford.

He said there were concerns over gaps in doctors' rotas and also outlined the "huge challenge" that is the change required to comply with the new European Working Time Directive.

"We have experienced great difficulty getting accurate figures on likely compliance from the Northern Ireland Trusts, and have grave concerns because of the gaps in local junior doctor rotas.

"We will insist on real compliance by employers," he said.

The leading medic also warned of what he described as "blatant attempts to obtain confidential patient information without consent".

He warned of the "growing tendency to be cavalier with confidential patient information" and the increasing number of blatant attempts to get non-anonymous information without recourse to the patient.

"We are all patients and we have a right to say who accesses our personal information and for what purpose." he said.

See: Has Swine Flu Hit Another Child?

(BMcC/JM)

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