Western Trust ‘must live within budget’

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The Western Trust says it is “required to live within” its budget following the leaking of its plans to slash staffing and medical budgets.

An internal document detailing the impact of £4.6m in cost savings being demanded by the Health and Social Care Board states that the cuts will have a “significant impact” on patient care.

Commenting on the contents of the letter, a spokesperson for the Western Trust said it was “facing new and emerging pressures”.

“Each year the Western Trust spends approximately £540m delivering health and social care services in the Western area and is required to live within the allocated budget. The trust has been set a very ambitious and challenging savings plan of £42.7m over a three year period from April 2012 to March 2015 by the Northern Ireland Executive,” the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson added that the local trust is not alone in being forced to make savings.

“All health and social care trusts in Northern Ireland are facing similar financial challenges and are in on-going discussions with the service commissioner, the Health and Social Care Board, regarding potential areas for savings and reinvestment.”

The Trust has confirmed that at a meeting of its board of directors earlier this month, Director of Finance Lesley Mitchell explained the “main reasons” why the trust is currently in this financial position. “First, the Trust is facing new and emerging pressures such as domiciliary care, medical locums, foster care placements, 16 + homeless young people and nursing pressures. Second, the Trust is now in the second year of the ambitious savings plan set by the NI Executive.”

The letter, which has been seen by the Derry Journal, includes proposals to slash by 25% cover for medical staff vacancies, plans to cut 50% of cover for Allied Health Professional (Physiotherapists, Occupational Therapists and Podiatrists) vacancies and moves to axe 100% of all unfunded administration staff. The document further includes plans to cap expenditure on lab chemicals which it states will result in the “delayed diagnosis” of patients.

The trust proposals also provide for a reduction by 25% of all unfunded staff in wards, slashing £1.1million from the budget and resulting in “quality of care being compromised and the closure of an entire ward”.