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Cutbacks are 'bordering on insanity'

By Nevin Farrell

Cuts to health services are "bordering on insanity," a nursing chief has claimed.

Fiona Devlin, chair of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Northern Ireland Board, was speaking to district nurses from across Northern Ireland who gathered to discuss the future of community services which they say are being depleted beyond repair.

The nurses are calling for action to be taken to ease the pressures on frontline district nursing services.

Since 2010, figures from the Department of Health reveal that the district nursing workforce has fallen by 21%.

With almost half of this workforce aged over 45, this raises serious questions about workforce planning in Northern Ireland which has been completely inadequate, the nurses were told.

Fiona Devlin said: "Over the last couple of weeks, trusts have been announcing a series of service cuts as a result of the Northern Ireland Executive's financial crisis. Minor injuries units, respite facilities and intermediate care and rehabilitation beds throughout Northern Ireland are being closed, with staff being redeployed to acute hospitals. Financial crisis or not, this is bordering on insanity.

"Earlier this year, the RCN told the Northern Ireland Assembly Health Committee that Transforming your Care is 'a vision without action'. We now need to reassess that conclusion.

"With alternatives to acute hospital admission being closed and more and more patients being sent to emergency care departments because they are the only point of access to the health system, we are entitled to ask if Transforming your Care is dead in the water?

"District nurses are at the core of our community services."

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