NIC-ICTU Health Committee responds to proposed cuts
25 Aug 2017
Claire Ronald, vice-chair of the NIC-ICTU Health Committee, which leads on the health policy development for the wider trade union movement, said at a briefing for colleagues:
“The latest funding crisis facing the Health Service in Northern Ireland is the consequence of a political crisis. The funding crisis which has caused such turmoil across NI’s five Health Trusts will not be resolved until our NHS has a locally accountable Health Minister and a functioning NI Assembly to scrutinise their decisions.
"The longer term issues facing the Health Service can be better resolved using the methods and structures outlined by Professor Bengoa a few months ago, involving the representatives of staff and patients at the very heart of the tactical and strategic direction of the people’s NHS.
“That is why the trade unions believe that the trusts have been put in a difficult position by the Department of Health but we believe they have made the situation worse by actively side lining the health trade unions. If they had involved the unions at the point that they received a communication from the department, we could have been working far more collectively against this situation. We represent the people who deliver these services and yet we are seen as just a tick box of people who they have to consult with not a true partner in the process.
“They have all been working on their savings plans and trying to manage resources based on an anticipated level of savings, but there was no involvement with the unions until this public consultation is suddenly required, based on a suddenly more significant reduction in their budgets.
“It is also telling that they will consider what is said but unless alternatives can be offered the release the same amount of savings I see little changing
Moreover, how can trade unions or the public give realistic suggestions when we do not have access to the full financial information and have only 6 weeks within which to make recommendations? This makes the consultation seem even more of a sham as we have been given limited information with which to fight back.
“The thing to bear in mind is that these cuts are supposed to kick-in at the start of November, the time of year when Health costs dramatically increase, as winter bites and the elderly and vulnerable need the services of the NHS.
“There was a strong emphasis at some of the five Health Trusts’ briefings about the plans being temporary and there was a focus on not closing services. The fact remains that these cuts will still see people left without treatment. We have seen temporary changes before that have still to be reversed it is often the way of making unpalatable changes without going through a full and robust consultation and plan.
“What is both unfair and unreasonable is this sham exercise in consultation. The public are being asked to choose from a selection of cuts. There is a pressing need for the very opposite, decent investment in infrastructure and skills and proper wages for the staff who deliver health and social care to the people.
“Our colleagues across the Health Service are unanimous in calling for our service to be overseen by locally elected politicians and run collaboratively using the strength and skills of the entire workforce.
“But in the absence of an return to Stormont, the responsibility must be placed at the top of the Department of Health and the only ministerial oversight we have, and that means the Secretary of State James Brokenshire.
Note: the links to five NI Health Trusts consultations are below, We recommend that any responses in addition to those from the NIC-ICTU Health Committee be copied to the Department of Health NI: