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Fury as Health Minister Simon Hamilton ignores union letter

By Noel McAdam

Published 04/02/2016

New plans: Simon Hamilton
New plans: Simon Hamilton

Health Minister Simon Hamilton has been accused of ignoring the concerns of staff over his decision to axe Northern Ireland's Health and Social Care Board.

The biggest public sector union in the health service said his failure to respond was "really reprehensible" and warned of potential consequences - without spelling them out.

A letter sent to the minister yesterday said the Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance (Nipsa) has had no answer to, or acknowledgement of, a letter sent to him and permanent secretary Richard Pengelly before Christmas.

That was more than a month after Mr Hamilton announced his intention to shut the HSCB in a bid to cut health service bureaucracy and appointed an expert panel to examine how services should be delivered.

The Board employs around 470 people - 80% of whom are represented by Nipsa - with an administrative budget of £27m.

The DUP Minister said he wanted to see his Department take "firmer, strategic control of our Health and Social Care system".

But Nipsa assistant secretary Kevin McCabe said: "Staff are livid over this cavalier approach. It is highly unusual in civil service terms not to even get an acknowledgement. To say the least, it is very disrespectful."

His letter added: "This is not the sort of standard we expect from a NICS Department or its Minister and we can only conclude that it is further evidence of the way you view staff concerns and representations made by their representative body.

Asked for a response yesterday, a spokesman would only say: "The Department does not comment on private correspondence."

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