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Sinn Féin's Health Budget Submission vindicated by Top Civil Servant

13 January, 2005

Sinn Féin's submission to the health budget announced by NIO finance minister Ian Pearson MP in December has been vindicated by one of the North's most senior civil servants, according to the Party's health spokesperson, Cllr John O'Dowd MLA.

Mr O'Dowd said, "The comments made by the Permanent Secretary at the Department of Health, Clive Gowdy, in a newspaper article that the health service in the Six Counties would need an additional annual investment of between £400m to £500 million is an indictment of the failed policies pursued by successive British Governments. It is quite clear that people in the Six Counties are being denied proper access to the high quality health service they deserve through continuous and substantial under-investment in facilities, doctors and nurses and in social services staff as well.

"Sinn Féin warned that the budget announced by Ian Pearson in December would do little to enhance the health service and would, in fact, lead to a serious reversal of the quality and standards of health care over the next number of years. That warning was issued, not as an attempt to gain headline space, but as result of a series of discussions that Sinn Féin had with those involved in the commissioning and delivery of the entire range of health services in the lead-up to December's budget. Those we met included health board chiefs, senior management representatives, professional organisations, trades unions and user groups."

The Sinn Féin health spokesperson added, "However, given Clive Gowdy's comments, two very obvious questions arise. Firstly, exactly what kind of advice did senior civil servants give to Ian Pearson and his British Labour colleagues in relation to the North's needs in the run-up to the budget, as I have no doubt that those same bodies and organisations, with whom I and other party colleagues had met, would also have been making their views known very strongly at that level. Secondly, if senior civil servants did give British ministers an accurate picture of the state of under-investment within the health service, why did those ministers chose to ignore such advice? I have no doubt that many people will be of the view that the incredible extent of health service under-funding almost amounts to a case of criminal irresponsibility and neglect." ENDS

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