The Assembly Executive is to carry out cuts amounting to £113 million from the health service this year. This decision, collectively agreed by the parties in the Executive, as part of the Draft Expenditure Plans 2010/11, is a direct attack on health services which will have a major impact on thousands of patients.
Since 2007, approximately £700 million has been cut from public services. The consequence of these cuts so far has seen vital services disappear. In the Royal Group of Hospitals in the last few months, there have been bed closures across many departments, particularly in the areas of acute and chronic care.
Approximately 25 beds were closed in cardio-vascular wards in the run up to Christmas due to the lack of nursing staff, resulting in many patients unable to get surgery as operations had to be cancelled. Other ward closures in the Royal have occurred in Sick Children’s and Royal Maternity forcing over-worked staff into crisis management.
To date, around 700 nursing jobs have gone that will not be replaced as the Belfast Health & Social Care Trust has stopped recruitment. The Stroke – Rehabilitation Unit based in the Royal, and Children & Adult Ear, Nose & Threat services in the City Hospital are set to close imminently, with a loss of 31 beds in ENT services alone. This will result in further job losses and devastated services for vulnerable patients.
Since 2007, the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust has seen massive cuts ripped out of health provision. The situation has become so bad that workers have run out of gloves in the main surgical ward in the Sick Children’s Hospital. Incredibly, staff have been told not to order stock from central stores to save money! Clerical and frontline staff have also suffered major cuts already, with 900 administrative jobs and 450 secretarial positions scrapped so far.
Management have told workers that a further 10% cut in clerical and administration is “necessary”, which will result in essential vacant posts not being filled. This will cause staff to be re-deployed to other areas to maintain services.
The Socialist Party is campaigning to stop the health cuts and has launched a petition to get health workers, patients and local communities to send a message to the politicians that these cuts must stop. We are also challenging West Belfast Councillor Tom Hartley (Sinn Fein), who receives between £5,000 – £10,000 a year as a member of the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, to publically justify these cuts.
These cuts must be resisted if we are to protect our health service. Health workers, trade union activists and local communities need to be organised and apply pressure on the Assembly parties to stop the health cuts. Communities need to fight for investment to provide a first class health service we all deserve and demand.