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Sinn Féin to quiz Health Officials on cuts at Committee

27 May, 2010 - by Michelle O'Neill

Sinn Féin MLA and vice chair of the Health Committee, Michelle O'Neill has stated that Health Officials will need to provide answers to serious questions in relation to cuts at today's session of the Health Committee. This follows the bringing forward by the Health Minister, Michael McGimpsey, of his proposals for cuts to services.

Speaking today Ms O'Neill said:

"Today's meeting will be frank and direct. The health officials have some very serious and urgent questions to answer in front of the committee.

"The urgency surrounds the fact that these efficiency saving have been brought forward, not only five months late, but also that there is very little detail provided on what the cuts will entail and who they will have the largest impact on.

"Certainly we will be exploring three main issues. Firstly, the service development plans being reduced by £56m and what this entails.

"£56m will encompass a wide range of services but there is no detail as to what exactly will be included, nor what the impact will be on patients and staff. Certainly there are fears around what is being delayed and postponed such as a possible delay in bowel cancer screening.

"Furthermore the health services workforce has been targeted for a 2% reduction. Given that many are areas are stretched as it is in terms of staff, and the Minster has stated that there would be no compulsory redundancies, we need to find out how he can possibly square this circle.

"Finally, and something that I would welcome, is the moving away from the reliance on the private sector. What we now need to see however is what specialities this will affect and how it will impact on waiting lists.

"The overall feeling  is that the Health Committee are only beginning to be able to ask these hard questions due to the Health Ministers compulsion to bypass or simply ignore the committee. This is by no means good practice nor can it help in providing a health service that is as effective as it should be.

"Ultimately we need to return to the Investment in Health document, brought forward by Bairbre de Brún when she was Health Minister in 2002 which places the focus on comprehensive approach to tackling health inequalities and chronic illnesses by incorporating healthy practices in housing, education, and tackling social deprivation. This in the long run will be measurable and save the health service millions of pounds in treating preventable illnesses. "

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