The Western Trust received over 7,700 responses to its public consultation on its £12.5m Savings Plan, it has been confirmed.
Trust Board member George McIlroy said that the Board would not have implemented the more drastic Savings Plan after consulting the project, while others on the Board stressed that they too had grave concerns.
The most severe cuts were offset after the Department of Health secured additional funding, but a reduced £3.1m Savings Plan was endorsed by the Board despite objections from a succession of speakers.
Trust Board chairman, Niall Birthistle, assured those gathered at the meeting that the members were listening ver carefully to what people were saying. “The members of this Board were prepared to proceed with this consultation on proposals for savings, but had many reservations about those proposals. We very much regret the anxiety that has been caused to members of the public,” he said.
Some of the lower impact proposals to go ahead, including increasing car parking charges, were amended as a result of public feedback, the Board said. Other temporary measures will include reducing cleaning of administration areas, suspending filling vacancies and reducing the range of external service providers.
Thanking all those who had given feedback, Trust Chief Executive, Ann Kilgallen, said many recipients said that they felt the decision had already been made and that the most vulnerable in society and the elderly would be hardest hit.
Concerns were also expressed about the impact on staff and ability to deliver services and maintain safety.
Trust member Joe Campbell said the Trust Board stressed that the savings were imposed and not instigated by themselves.
He said that while there was a duty on them to break even, they had a track record of putting patient safety first.
“It is an onus on a non-executive director to balance the books but, for example, last year in relation to the Trust finances we went the whole way through the year with an £11m deficit and we were not prepared to reduce services or in any way put patient safety at risk to balance the books. So we have ran this Trust at a deficit.” He added that the Board should take back the strong feeling in the community to the department.
Mr McIlroy added: “My understanding from the non-executive directors and also from the executive directors is that if this £40m hadn’t have become apparent at this particular stage, this Board would not have been passing through the Savings Plan that had been imposed upon us. Cold comfort, belated, but I think it gives a fair indication of the degree of deliberation this Board has taken on board during this consultation.”