‘Every health service is already cut to the bone’

Goretti Horgan and Eamonn McCann, who both addressed the Western Trust Board at the meeting.
Goretti Horgan and Eamonn McCann, who both addressed the Western Trust Board at the meeting.

Warnings have been issued that any move to implement cuts to local health care services will be resisted locally.

The Trust was told that there was growing anger over Departmental directives ordering Trusts across the north to find £70m in savings by the end of March 2018.

The Western Trust have been tasked with reducing expenditure by £12.5m, and yesterday its board gave its approval for the Draft Plan on where the axe will fall to go out for public consultation, despite calls for them to refuse to do so.

The proposals include the closure of either William Street or Rectory Field Residential Home and moving residents under the same roof.

Speaking before the decision to consult was taken, local rights campaigner Goretti Horgan said: “It is already the case that every service is cut to the bone. Any cuts will cost in the future.

“Any time you close a statutory residential home for older people and hand over their care to the for-profit sector, what you do is you just kick the can down the road to where we are going to end up paying more to look after those people when the for-profit company discovers that actually there is no profit after all. I would really appeal to you to say ‘we will not do this’.”

Eamonn McCann told the Board: “The money is there. We have to see this in a far bigger context. If their Trident missile was cancelled all the funding problems of the National Health Service would be solved in a twinkling.

“The Trust and everybody else should be saying, ‘make the rich pay their fair share, cancel Trident and we can solve all these things’.”

Gerry Madden, representing the NI Association of Social Workers and Social Workers Union said: “Over recent years our members have been constantly telling us about the downgrading the reduction of services, to a point, I think it is fair to say, were we are governed by a principle whereby we know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

Shaun Harkin from People Before Profit, who helped organise a protest outside the meeting, said: “We have very dedicated workers who are bending over backwards to deal with a situation were they are under-resourced, demoralised, undervalued in terms of the pay they are getting, and that goes for the staff at Altnagelvin Hospital and all the other hospital and care workers out meeting the needs of people. These cuts are going to deepen that crisis.”

Gerry McCusker said the Trust, along with others, should demand the £1bn the DUP secured for “propping up the Tory government” is released to help offset the financial pressures.

A Department of Health spokesperson said the fresh cuts were necessary as the “financial challenge for Health remains significant due to inflation, an increasing and ageing population and the cost of new treatments”.

The spokesperson added that the Health and Social Care Board will work with Trusts to “mitigate as far as possible the proposed temporary service changes”.

To respond to the consultation go to the website www.westerntrust.hscni.net or contact the Trust’s Equality Office on (028) 82835834.