Health cuts proposals ‘could be devastating for sick and elderly’

.William Street Residential Home. 0105JM43
.William Street Residential Home. 0105JM43

Union representatives has warned that proposals to make fresh cuts to local health services will prove “devastating” for the sick and elderly.

Officials said their unions’ members were deeply opposed to proposals by the Western Trust to deliver £12.5 million in further cuts to local healthcare provision.

The proposals - which come after a Department of Health directive ordering all health Trusts to find a combined £70m in savings- were detailed during a public meeting of the Trust board in Derry last week.

Under the plans put forward, either the William Street or Rectory Field residential home being shut down and residents moved to a single site. The threat is the latest in a series hanging over the Derry homes, which were saved from closure several years ago following a major campaign.

Other proposals include reducing domicillary care and nursing home care packages, resulting in 275 packages not being put in place at all, as high risk patients are prioritised.

The proposals also outline delaying recruitment for vacant posts across primary care and older people services, and cutting routine procedures and surgery by 50 per cent for day case patients and dozens of bed closures.

Gareth Scott, Unite Regional Officer, said the impact of such cuts “on the sick, infirm and elderly will be devastating”.

“We are in this situation because of the failure of our political leaders to agree a progressive alternative pathway forwards – their assurances that the health budget would be protected have been shown to be meaningless,” Mr Scott said.

“These measures will also have a serious impact on the workforce.

“This programme of brutal cuts is totally unacceptable to Unite. We will be engaging with our membership and the wider community on our next steps throughout the coming consultation process – our members will not stand idly by and watch as our NHS is torn asunder and patients abandoned.”

Kevin McCabe, Assistant Secretary at NIPSA meanwhile expressed cynicism over the timing of the cuts, which he claimed was “taking advantage of the political impasse”.

Mr McCabe added that NIPSA would fight with the public and others to resist these proposed cuts over the six-week consultation period, and has already urged MLAs and other elected representatives to register to attend the lunchtime meetings and to reflect and express the entire community’s opposition to further budget cuts.