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Joined: 09/03/2009
Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland will be facing a ‘standstill’ year because of the impact of budget cuts and efficiency savings on spending plans.<

Announcing his ‘Priorities for Action’ for the year ahead, Health Minister, Michael McGimpsey said rising demand and limited resources had placed significant pressures on staff.

He said: “There is no doubt that the Health and Social Care service is facing a very difficult year. While demand for services has increased at an unprecedented rate, the resources to match have simply not followed.

“We have had to find £700million of efficiency savings - £111million this year alone – which has been further coupled with the recent £113million cut to my budget. My department has also been hit by a further £13million penalty for dealing with the swine flu pandemic.

“The impact on my budget has been considerable and has meant that I have had to make tough decisions.”

Publishing his ‘Priorities for Action’ for 2010-11, the Minister said they outlined his plans to deliver health and social care services within the limited resources available.

Continuing, the Minister said: “While I have made every effort to protect frontline services and staff, it has not been possible to take forward new plans to develop and transform some services. In fact, my service development plans have been decimated which means I will not be able to take forward all of the improvements I would like.”

Turning to waiting times, the Minister said that he had no choice but to scale back planned investments in this area. He said: “I will aim to continue to ensure that all patients are able to see a specialist in outpatients and have any diagnostic tests as quickly as possible.

“However, it will not be possible to ensure short waiting times for all surgical procedures; some patients will have to wait up to 36 weeks, although most should be seen more quickly.

“I have also introduced a target for review appointments for those people who require follow up care.”

The Minister said that while it was not possible to do everything he wanted because of limited resources, he had taken steps to protect the most vulnerable groups in society.

He continued: “The safeguarding of children will continue to be given the highest priority with ongoing monitoring of child protection referral processes to ensure all cases are dealt with rapidly.

“Older people will be supported to live independently. All patients will be provided with an individual care plan together with details of who to contact with any difficulties.

“While I would like to make faster progress with the resettlement programme, I have made additional resources available and am confident of achieving the 2011 resettlement targets for both mental health and learning disability patients.

“I have also been able to make some investment in additional respite services, although again this is less than I would have wished. Nevertheless there will be increased respite provision for people with a learning disability and their families; I know how important this service is, especially to elderly carers.”

In conclusion, the Minister said: “I have done everything possible to protect and sustain services and staff and to ensure that patients do not suffer. It is now up to the Executive to make sure that our health service does not face further cuts.

“Yesterday’s announcement has made it clear that England will ensure that its health service is protected – this must also happen in Northern Ireland. If further cuts are imposed the consequences will be truly dire – patients will be left in unnecessary pain and distress, the most vulnerable will suffer. This cannot be allowed to happen.”

Notes to editors:

1. The Priorities for Action 2010-11 identifies seven key areas:

  • Improving health and reducing inequalities
  • Ensuring services are safe, sustainable and accessible
  • Delivering better integration across all services
  • Helping older people live independently
  • Improving children’s health and well-being
  • Improving mental health services and services for people with disabilities
  • Ensuring financial stability and the effective use of resources.<