Campaigners say no to health cuts

Campaigners say no to health cuts

6 September 2017

THERE was a resounding ‘No’ to proposed local health cuts of £10.8m at a public meeting in the Downe Hospital last week.

The message from the meeting, called by the Down Community Health Committee and the trade union Unison, was that the local community would simply not accept the funding downgrade for the South Eastern Trust area.

The Trust has been set a savings target of £10.85m that must be achieved in the second half of the current financial year. It’s part of a £70m cuts plan for across Northern Ireland.

The Trust’s plan includes slowing or deferring the use of any money for service development or new initiatives and replacing agency and locum staff with in-house staff.

The Trust has said that in considering the temporary savings proposals, patient and client safety will not be compromised and attempts will be made to minimise the impact to services.

At Thursday’s well attended meeting particular concern was expressed over the impact of any cuts on current waiting lists.

Health Committee chairman Eamonn McGrady explained that people expecting treatment in the South Eastern Trust area this year may have to wait until next year.

“It is the case that other areas are probably much more detrimentally affected by these cuts, but the simple reason for that is — these other areas are where all the money has been spent in the first place.

“But it does impact on our community. In particular six to seven hundred less procedures will be done in this financial year. They will be delayed into the next. So six to seven hundred people will not get the treatment they require in the next six months because of this.”

South Down MP Chris Hazzard said be believed the proposals were a “cynical ploy” designed to influence the talks process at Stormont.

“To me there is no sensible way forward here,” he said. “We can’t go ahead with some of this stuff. To be fair, we are not as badly affected as some areas. But this will only be the thin edge of wedge.

“The only way forward is to say this is not possible, this is not feasible.”

Mr Hazzard added that as the cuts were not coming from the direction of the Trust on this occasion, the Trust “probably want us to be very successful”.

Councillor Terry Andrews expressed concern at who was most likely to be impacted by any cuts. “All it amounts to is a hit list that will hit the most vulnerable in our society,” he said.

“I think it’s a nightmare for everybody who needs our health services. It’s a hit list for bean counters who don’t know what planet they are living on.”

One local resident said she was concerned about the impact of further cuts on the voluntary and community sector.

“Sometimes you have to stand up and say ‘no, it’s not happening’,” she said.

Councillors Cadogan Enright and John Trainor were also among those expressing grave concerns at the planned downgrading of a new health committee at Newry Mourne and Down Council to a working group. This was ahead of Monday night’s discussion of the issue at Newry Mourne and Down Council.

Mr McGrady said the Down Community Health Committee was willing to engage with the council in whatever way the committee saw fit.

However, on their current relationship with the local authority, compared to the old Down Council, he commented: “I do not feel we have the same level of engagement, we do not have the same relationship.”

Committee member Anne Trainor added: “This council is a cold house for the Down Community Health Committee.”

A public consultation meeting on the proposed cuts to the South Eastern Trust will be held locally in the Downshire Estate’s Great Hall in Downpatrick on Thursday, September 28, at 7pm.