Over 100 days have passed since the DUP boldly announced that in exchange for propping up Teresa May’s failing government, £250million would be delivered for our health service. But not one single penny of that money has yet been seen and instead we have the Department of Health announcing their intention to proceed with cuts of over £70 million. A cut of this scale cannot be carried out without having a far reaching and deeply harmful impact right across our health service. To take one just one example, at a recent briefing in Musgrave Hospital staff were informed that it was possible that should these cuts go ahead, that two wards in Musgrave could close and more than 2000 day cases postponed.
Full details of the Trusts proposals are outlined here.
Reading through the proposals and listening to officials at the public meetings, it is clear that this is an exercise in balancing the books with little or no thought from the Department of Health to strategic and appropriate planning. No group is spared and people at all stages of their lives are going to be seriously and harmfully affected. Under these proposals there will be fewer treatments for non-urgent elective day cases which will effect up to 2000 cases while the loss of 65 beds in Belfast alone will in turn further increase the waiting lists. Longer waiting lists means that not only are people living in pain and poor health but that vital time sensitive treatments are not being carried out promptly. Suspending access to the Regional fertility Centre will deny hopeful families support and treatment while reducing the availability of domiciliary care packages by 66% and suspending admissions to both nursing and residential homes will put thousands of families under huge pressure to ensure the appropriate care of their loved ones is achieved.
We are already in a situation where almost a third of cancer patients who have been referred urgently by their GPs are being forced to wait longer than the recommended time for treatment and the number of patients waiting for more than a year for a first consultant-led outpatient appointment has doubled in the last twelve months. Those who work in the health service in Belfast do an excellent job in very difficult conditions but they have been stretched by years of cutbacks and are now operating in a system that is dangerously overloaded. Urgent reform is needed but despite there being an expert led 10-year plan drafted, there has been no political leadership. With winter pressures ahead of us it is inconceivable that these immediate cuts are being proposed without any strategic thinking or long term planning.
The full details of the Trusts proposals are outlined here and I would encourage you to read this carefully and make your views known