UUP Councillor William McCandless has said that the £70 million worth of cuts to the Northern Ireland health trusts proposed for March could be prevented by a Health Minister.
He said: “A local Health Minister could stand against and block the worst of these proposals. Instead of these last minute cuts to this years health budget we should have an Executive and a Health Minister in place leading the transformation which is necessary to improve healthcare and planning for the 2018/19 budget to ensure efficient proposals can be implemented.”
He continued: “Our patients need and deserve immediate help. They are losing faith that they will ever see the additional money promised by both of the large parties DUP and S.F.
“Our Health Service is in crisis and without a Minister it is totally leaderless.”
Councillor McCandless pointed out that of the targeted £70 million worth of cuts, the Northern Trust area would suffer £13 million alone.
Suggestions on how to achieve this figure include; reducing up to 2400 non-urgent surgeries from Mid Ulster and Whiteabbey, ending reliance on locum staff, accelerating the end of the meals on wheels scheme and increasing the car park charges by approximately 20% at acute sites.
Councillor McCandless said: “It is always admirable if any organisation can investigate ways of saving money and reducing costs through efficiencies but I feel the £70 million cuts announced by the Health and Social care trusts will exacerbate the waiting times crisis which is already overwhelming the local health service.
“These emergency cuts will mean people waiting longer for treatments and also having to remain in hospitals for longer than they need to. This in turn will lead to beds not becoming available for other patients.”
He continued: “Northern Ireland has by far the worst waiting times of anywhere in the UK, so any additional cuts will have a direct impact on the quality and safety of patient care and could lead to more lives being lost.
“Local health officers have themselves warned that spiralling waiting times can lead to severely delayed diagnoses of life threatening illnesses.”
Councillor McCandless explained that The Health Trusts had been told to find these savings.
He said: “Whilst some decisions such as using other cheaper medications are welcome, others such as slashing intermediary beds and restricting domiciliary care packages run completely contrary to what all the evidence suggests we should be doing.
“This short term cut may save money for this fiscal year but it will end up costing us far more in the longer term.
“What happened to the vision of transforming your care? These proposals are not based on what is best for patients, rather they were decided upon by which saved the most amount of money in the shortest time.”
He concluded: “This is no way to run the NHS.”