Parties turn on DUP over closure of board
Both the Ulster Unionist Party and SDLP have slammed the decision by outgoing Health Minister Simon Hamilton to abolish Northern Ireland's Health and Social Care Board (HSCB).
The Board commissioned services for the six health trusts that deliver the NHS.
Most of the functions of the HSCB - which currently has 600 staff - will be carried out by the Department of Health, with a new monitoring group to be established. Some of the HSCB workload will transfer to existing health trusts, the minister said.
Ulster Unionist MLA Michael McGimpsey - who set up the board when he was Health Minister - said the timing of the decision shows political vindictiveness.
The South Belfast MLA said: "If the DUP genuinely cared about reforming the administration of health and social care in Northern Ireland, they would not have left the decision to abolish the board to the very final weeks of their five-year term at the top of the local health service."
Calling Minister Hamilton's announcement a "smokescreen for failure", Mr McGimpsey said: "I believe that the minister has used the announcement of abolishing the HSCB as a smokescreen for the crippling failures that he has left the local health service with."
SDLP health spokesman Fearghal McKinney called the closure a "cover-up" for what he described as the minister's failure to deal with ongoing critical challenges in the health service.
"I am concerned that rather than making the system less bureaucratic and more accountable, the decision will only mean a change of name plaque on the door at its current headquarters."
A spokesman for the public sector trade union Nipsa, which represents many of the 600 HSCB staff, said: "It is absolutely disgraceful that yet again before a holiday period staff are left in a heightened state of anxiety and distress as to where their futures may lie."