Health bosses should not rush to make decision on £70m in health cuts: Durkan

Mark H Durkan.
Mark H Durkan.

The SDLP’s health spokesperson Mark H. Durkan has warned health chiefs that their “legal, professional and moral” duty requires more than a “box-ticking” exercise after a public consultation on £70m in proposed cuts to health services across the North - £12.5m of which will be made in the Western Trust - closed on Thursday.

Back in August the health authorities advised members of the public that they had been taken by the Department of Health (DoH) with developing draft saving plans to deliver their share - in WHSCT’s case £12.5m - of a total of £70m of savings in 2017/18.

The authorities advised the measures were necessary to address the significant financial pressures facing health and social care services in 2017/18 and in order “to meet the statutory requirement of achieving a balanced financial plan across the HSC”.

Controversial proposals in the Western Trust include a reduction in the use of locums and agency staff that could result in the closure of approximately 30 beds/care spaces across medical and care of the elderly wards; a temporary reduction in elective surgery that will result in a significant deterioration in access to routine elective care provided by the Trust; and the consolidate of services in the Derryarea provided by William Street and Rectory Field Residential Homes onto a single site.

Following the closure of the consultation last Thursday, Mr. Durkan said: “It is deeply concerning that after the consultations have only just closed on the financial planning for health trusts, that a decision is to be made almost immediately this month.

“The consultation period for the public to respond was not satisfactory and now the period for trusts to give those responses consideration isn’t satisfactory at all. It is understandable that many people think these proposals are being railroaded through.

“All public bodies are required by the Gunning Principles to consult appropriately and that requires giving due consideration to the views expressed during that process.

“Health chiefs should be wary of rushing into a decision without full and proper consideration of all views expressed. As we have seen elsewhere, anything less could potentially see trusts liable to a Judicial Review. Which would only lead to further pressures on the public purse.

“The SDLP is firm, that a short period for consideration of the consultation responses, for proposals that will see significant cuts to our health service, is not adequate. Particularly, as these will inevitably impact detrimentally on patient safety and the delivery of care.”