Concerns over plan for £70m cut in NI health budget

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Image: Packed meeting at the Belfast Trust meeting in Knockbracken Healthcare Park

By Una Murphy

Fears have been expressed over proposals aimed at saving £70m across the Northern Ireland health service, by cutting services, wards and agency staff.

It is feared the most vulnerable, especially older patients, will be hardest hit by the plans.

Five public meetings took place in Belfast, Derry, Craigavon and Antrim mid-day on August 24, ahead of a six-week consultation on £70 million cuts to services.

There were calls for health board members to resign rather than implement the cuts as trade union members, campaigners, citizens and politicians found out where the axe will fall.

Fears were also expressed that cuts were being implemented before the public consultation ended on October 5.

Felicity McKee, attended the Southern Health and Social Care Trust public meeting at Craigavon Area Hospital about the NHS cuts. Felicity describes herself as a ‘professional patient’ and attends Queen’s University. VIEWdigital asked her to comment on the planned NHS cuts.

Felicity McKee

She said: “Things have progressively gotten worse over the years in which I’ve been in and out of hospital. With over 20 admissions this year alone, I can safely say that staff on the front line are stretched thin. In Daisy Hill, staff on wards have been sent to cover the emergency department, leaving a skeleton crew to manage the wards, with staff complaining about the risk to patient safety, and rightly so.

“In Craigavon the other day, I was unable to receive treatment as all spaces in Majors and Resus were in use, with no beds on the ward for those patients to be moved to, and so what is usually a quick move into Resus or Majors because of my chronic Ill health was delayed, which given the potential life threatening nature of my health issue is problematic.”

Felicity added: “The board meeting I attended claimed the public rarely attended unless it was a public meeting in their area, I would suspect that this is because it’s badly advertised. Despite the room being full with representatives from a variety of groups, the board conceded that there were only approximately four members of the public including myself, in attendance.”

Meanwhile the Patient and Client Council, which strives for a health and social care service that is shaped by patients, clients, carers and communities is conducting research into hospital waiting lists.

Patient and Client Council Involvement Project Coordinator, Nigel Warburton, said: “Some of the things that we have been finding out from talking to people is that some are not even making it onto the waiting list.

“That’s because, when their GP first refers them and informs them of the time they have to wait, that person would rather pay to have the treatment done privately, but it’s not something everyone can afford.

“There also appears to be a real frustration among people about the information they are being given about where they are on the waiting list and how long it is going to be before they receive treatment.

“People often put their lives on hold when they are on a waiting list. It can impact on their lives, both socially and financially. They need good, reliable information to enable them to plan ahead and get on with their lives,” Nigel added.

To take part in the survey click on this link: it closes on Friday September 1





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