Healthcare funding provides ‘short-term respite’

Protestors showed their opposition to the proposed cuts at Stormont.
Protestors showed their opposition to the proposed cuts at Stormont.

A £40 million cash injection will reduce the need for the most controversial cuts to healthcare in Northern Ireland, the Department of Health has said.

The extra money is being made available as part of a reallocation of funds by the Department of Finance, worth a total of £65 million spread across four government departments.

The Department of Health, however, warns that while the extra funds are welcome, the £40 million represents only “short-term respite” amid projected budget “pressures” totalling more than £1 billion in the next two financial years.

The Northern Trust, who had proposed savings of £13m in August, remained tight-lipped about any specific changes to its savings plan following yesterday’s announcement.

Commenting Dr Tony Stevens, Chief Executive of the Northern Trust said: “The additional funding available to HSC in Northern Ireland is to be welcomed. It will make an important contribution to ensuring that we continue to deliver safe, quality care.

“We put forward a cogent and logical plan to meet our share of the £70 million total savings requirement.

“This reflected some of our significant challenges, not the least of which relates to the ability to secure permanent medical and nursing staffing.

“However, today’s funding announcement clearly has significant implications in relation to the ‘major and/or controversial’ proposals which have been the subject of the recent public consultation process, in that it will help towards reducing the amount of savings needed.”

Dr Stevens added: “It is important to stress that as with the rest of the HSC, our challenges are ongoing.

“We continue to face serious financial pressures and although this funding allocation offers important short-term respite, the HSC system requires transformation of service models and long-term financial and workforce planning. Such measures are essential to deal with continuously rising and changing patterns of demand.

“We will continue with our ongoing reform agenda, the need for which was recognised in the Ministerial ‘Delivering Together’ strategy. This will mean inevitable change in the future, and it is important that we take this forward collectively.”

The trust’s board will meet tomorrow at noon in the Des Allen Suite, Ballymena Showgrounds in Ballymena.