Quality of services to be hit as Western Trust announces £7 million cuts

Western Health and Social Care Trust Headquarters at Altnagelvin Hospital. DER4414MC074
Western Health and Social Care Trust Headquarters at Altnagelvin Hospital. DER4414MC074

The Western Trust has announced cutbacks of £7m to be rolled out over the next five months, with the workforce taking the biggest hit.

A warning has now been issued to patients that quality of services will be affected.

The cuts are to be spread across three areas of the trust- workforce, services and expenditure.

Wheelchair allocations, domiciliary care packages and independent sector residential and nursing home provision are among the services to be restricted.

A warning has also been issued that money to make sure elective surgery waiting list targets are met has also been slashed.

A spokeswoman for the Western Trust said: “This means that waiting times for assessment and treatment in the Western Trust will increase. However, the Trust will ensure that patients are treated on the basis of clinical priority.”

The majority of the savings however will come from implementing a number of cuts to the workforce across the Trust.

There will now be a review of staff on temporary contracts, stricter criteria for the use of agency, bank and locum staff, and vacancies will now not be filled in the short-term.

There will be a reduction on spend on goods and services; tighter controls on non-clinical travel and restrictions on training will be in place for the rest of the financial year up to the end of March 2015.

In other areas, there will be a number of restrictions in relation to community services and Mental Health Services for older people will be “redesigned”, which will in effect mean a reduction in bed spaces.

Some independent sector contracts, which are not deemed core activity for the Trust, will be stopped.

A spokeswoman for the Western Trust said: “All Trusts in Northern Ireland have been asked to develop savings plans to address the financial deficit facing health and social care in Northern Ireland.

“The Department of Health Social Services and Public Safety and the service commissioner, the Health and Social Care Board have now approved a savings plan for the Western Trust totalling £7m.

“In the development of its plan the Trust took account of professional advice to ensure the continued safety of patients and clients. However with such a sizeable reduction in expenditure, the quality of services will be affected. All such impacts and associated risks will be carefully monitored and managed and action taken to protect patients and clients.

“These savings are based on the principle of supporting priority patient and client care and the maintenance of essential services, and are being delivered through strict controls on staff recruitment, travel, training and education, and bringing budgets back into line with funded levels.”