Health trusts warn of ‘catastropic impacts’ to frontline services

Health trusts warn of ‘catastropic impacts’ to frontline services

5 June 2024

HEALTH trusts have warned that service cut backs could have “catastrophic impacts” with the organisations deeply concerned at the financial outlook for the frontline services they deliver.

South Eastern Trust chairman Jonathan Patton and his counterparts in the four regional health trusts and the Ambulance Service Trust have issued a joint statement outlining their concern.

They say it’s their duty to warn of the very real potential for “avoidable and serious harm” being caused to people in the community who require their help, as a result of inadequate budgetary provision.

The warning comes after the Department of Health launched a consultation on its budget savings plans in May.

Permanent Secretary, Peter May, said the health service is currently facing unfunded spending pressures of £472m, of which £375m relates to a pay claim matching NHS England.

In their joint statement, the health trust chairs confirmed that “intensive efforts are ongoing to deliver a significant level of savings this year” and that “even with these savings, a very significant shortfall remains that could only be filled by measures with high and catastrophic impacts”.

The statement continues: “The reality is that without significant additional funding this year and longer-term financial security, the health service will be further destabilised and the public will bear the brunt.

“Such cutbacks would inevitably include bed closures as well as reductions in outpatient care, operating lists, domiciliary care and nursing care packages. This would impact damagingly on the whole community in Northern Ireland, particularly the most vulnerable.”

The statement says health trusts are keenly aware of the need to reform services and invest in new technology. 

“We know too that health drives our economy and contributes on numerous levels to well-being in society,” the statement continues.

The trust chairs say they have a collective responsibility as leaders to highlight these concerns, on behalf of their dedicated workforce and all those who rely on the vital services the organisations provide.

“We will continue to work constructively with staff, elected representatives and other stakeholders to pursue the best outcomes for patients and service users,” the statement insists.

“Health and social care services have endured a prolonged period of instability and pressure. The escalating budgetary situation represents another destabilising factor.”

The health trusts’ warning comes after the chair of the Royal College of GPs in Northern Ireland said pressure on the health service means patients are either paying with “their livelihoods or... their lives”.

Dr Ursula Mason said doctors cannot “keep doing more and more with less and less”.

Last week, the Assembly passed its first budget in three years, despite several parties voting against the move.