Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Top up fees will damage our Health service

19 April, 2004

Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson, Upper Bann MLA John O'Dowd has expressed concern that the imposition of top of fees will damage our health service.

Mr O'Dowd said:

"Over the next decade the current shortages will become more and more serious unless we begin training more staff across all parts of our health service. Top up fees make this situation much worse. Top up fees will damage our Health service.

"Our health service is struggling with staff shortages. There are not enough doctors, nurses or any of the other allied health professionals to sustain and develop the services we need. We are not making the impact on waiting times or in reducing trolley waits that we should expect.

"The introduction of the EU working time directive will also impact on junior doctors both in terms of their salaries and in terms of creating an even greater demand for junior doctors within our health service.

"The imposition of top up fess will particularly hit students studying longer degrees and science based degrees where costs are already higher. The BMA has estimated that the average medical student debt averaged £17,024 in 2003 across all undergraduate years to a maximum of £49,600 in final year.

The BMA also estimate that the introduction of top-up fees will lead to some medical students having 91% more debt when they leave university than those studying a three-year undergraduate course. These figures should send out a very serious warning about the long-term future of our health service.

"High levels of debt like this will undoubtedly act as a deterrent to people from more disadvantaged backgrounds. We need more people from a working class background coming into the health professionals not less. Rather than opening up access to our staff starved health service the introduction of top up fees will further discourage people from making the long-term financial commitment to our health service.

"The introduction of tuition fees in 1998 led to a 9.5% decrease in applications from people from socio-economic groups IV and V between 1997 and 2001 across all courses. The imposition of top up fees will be an even greater disaster." ENDS

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