Government plans for 60 NHS jobs to be taken out of Londonderry have been branded “scandalous”.
And despite the city having the highest unemployment rate in Northern Ireland, the Department for Health has not included it in the preferred shortlist of sites for relocation of services.
SDLP health spokesman and Foyle MLA Mark H Durkan reacted angrily to the proposals.
Mr Durkan said: “While we accept that savings can be made by streamlining administration of the NHS, it is a scandal that the Department is to take jobs out of Derry when it ranks as the fourth highest unemployment zone in the UK.
“Why could Altnagelvin not have been earmarked as an administration hub? No answer has been given on that.
“It has been said that those who do not wish to travel to other locations will be offered retraining and deployment elsewhere, but where are these alternative jobs coming from? Again, nothing so far from the Minister.”
He added: “If a Derry person were to end up being asked to travel to work in Armagh, for instance, it really is Hobson’s choice — nobody with any sort of family ties would be able to do it.
“I shall be raising this matter most forcefully at the meeting of the health committee.”
A spokeswoman for the Western Trust said: “The Western Trust will be considering all aspects of the consultation document and will be responding to it in due course.”
The redeployments will form part of the efficiency and cost-cutting initiative, the Business Services Transformation Project (BSTP).
Last month contracts for new shared services IT systems were awarded and these will contribute to savings of over £100m over the next decade.
Health Minister Edwin Poots said: “Modernisation is key to delivering better services. The Business Services Transformation Project will improve efficiency across the sector enabling us to provide a more effective service for the people who need health and social care.
“This potential to share expertise, improve performance and standardise processes cannot be underestimated. Shared services and the new technology will save both time and money that can be transferred to the frontline.”
The Department of Health launched its consultation document on shared services in health and social care. Like every other health trust, the Western Trust operates its own administration department, which looks after its payroll, finance payments and income, recruitment and staff selection, travel and subsistence. But the Department intends to centralise these operations at four sites across Northern Ireland.