Protest against Western Trust cuts will go ahead this morning

Protesters gathered outside Trust headquarters at Altnagelvin ahead of the meeting.
Protesters gathered outside Trust headquarters at Altnagelvin ahead of the meeting.

A planned protest over health cuts to is to go ahead in Derry this morning, despite some of the services affected receiving eleventh hour reprieves.

‘Stop the Cuts’ campaigners have confirmed that they are still planning to protest at 11.30 am outside the Foyle Arena prior to an extraordinary general meeting of the Western Health and Social Care Trust Board at 12 noon.

The meeting of the Western Trust’s Board, which is open to the public, was originally organised to look at feedback on its proposals to close one Derry residential home and implement a raft of other cost-cutting measures as part of a controversial £12.5 m draft Savings Plan.

The Department of Health had instructed all Trusts across the North to make savings totalling £70m within the current financial year.

The most drastic of the cuts however, have now been offset after it emerged on Wednesday that the Department of Finance had secured £40m.

As a result, the Trust has confirmed that plans to close either William Street or Rectory Field residential homes and cancel routine operations have now been abandoned.

However, ‘Stop the Cuts’ representative, Shaun Harkin, said the planned protest would go ahead as the Department of Health was still seeking £30 million in cuts. Mr Harkin said: “People power has been the key to stopping the most severe cuts to the health service. Protests and rallies forced the Department of Finance to shake their ‘magic money tree’ to find an additional £40 m. in funding to allow the Department of Health to announce they would be backing away from plans to shatter frontline services.

“Everyone who protested, rallied and spoke out is to be commended for forcing the shift from Stormont departments. The collective action of health workers, residents, campaigners, unions and communities sent forward a powerful message that couldn’t be ignored.”

Mr. Harkin also said establishment political parties “should refuse to continue implementing Tory austerity here.”

He said: “Instead of criticising protests they should commit in action and not just rhetoric to fully opposing cuts to the health service and all public services.”

Liam Gallagher, Secretary of Derry Trades Union Council, expressed concerns over the anxiety caused by the proposals. Mr Gallagher also warned against “using public sector cuts as a bargaining tool to force logical parties to get the Assembly back.”

“To ask the public to decide on which health services to reduce is akin to asking turkeys to vote for Christmas.”