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Scepticism over health budget claims

25 October, 2005

Sinn Féin health spokesperson John O'Dowd, MLA, has said that while the 13% increase in health spending announced by the British Secretary of State, Peter Hain, is to be welcomed, it is quite clearly not sufficient to address historic levels of under-funding of the health service.

Mr O'Dowd said:

"Many people will be sceptical at the Secretary of State's claims that this increase will deliver real improvements to front-line services. The reality is that most of this much heralded increase will be already eaten up by changes and rises in pay and conditions brought about by Agenda for Change which the British Government has consistently under-estimated and under-funded.

"Nothing is being done, for example, to solve key issues around the recruitment and retention of nurses by introducing a pay, conditions and career package, which is both competitive and attractive. Nor is there any indication by the Secretary of State to demonstrate what steps are being taken to ensure the recruitment and retention of hospital consultants to fill those present vacancies in hospitals across the Six Counties which are quite obviously contributing to the high levels of patient waiting-lists.

"There will also be great disappointment for many people at the absence of any commitment to release additional funding to permit an increase in the dispensing to life-modifying drugs for persons suffering from long-term debilitating illnesses. In the case of some illnesses, such as multiple sclerosis, it is estimated that an additional £1 million pounds made available to all four health boards would completely eradicate the waiting list of those patients currently awaiting treatment.

"Clearly, Peter Hain has chosen to ignore the case made recently by Professor John Appleby for substantial and sustained increases to health service spending here, preferring instead to concentrate on so-called 'efficiency' savings and creating a greater dependency upon the private health care sector which in turn will result in even more money being diverted away from the NHS." ENDS

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