Belfast Telegraph

Vomiting outbreak warning over cuts

Uncontrollable flu or winter vomiting bug outbreaks could cause a major crisis for Northern Ireland's health service because of funding problems, the health minister warned.

Edwin Poots outlined proposals for extensive cuts in the number of temporary doctors and nurses available and warned no new nursing graduates would be employed.

Other savings for this year may include cuts in drugs spending and restraint on staff pay which could lead to industrial action.

The report said: "In the community district nursing would be unable to cope with the demand for complex care at home, meaning the removal of services such as IV antibiotics, blood transfusion and other complex nursing roles undertaken out of hospital, further impacting on increased hospital admissions.

"Squeezing both hospital and community nursing to this degree will have a detrimental effect on nursing care and have a profound impact on patient care and experience.

"It is likely that outbreaks such as flu or winter vomiting bug could not be contained and could cause a major crisis for the health service."

The paper distributed to members of Stormont's health committee outlined the position for this financial year following the redistribution of public money between departments under June Monitoring.

It proposed reducing the use of agency or locum doctors and nurses by half. The effect of the changes would also span mental health, children's and maternity services and it is likely that no new nursing graduates would be employed.

Efforts to restrict medical staff pay in Northern Ireland because of funding cuts will be poorly received by staff, a briefing from the health minister said.

Only incremental increases which are routinely paid to reflect increasing length of service would apply and unions have already threatened industrial action, the note from the department said.

The amount of time allocated for domiciliary home care would also be reduced, affecting vulnerable clients and their carers.

Mr Poots has committed to delivering £170 million of savings this year but has warned it is up to the executive to make a decision on further health cuts.

He blamed Sinn Fein for his department's budget shortfall due to its refusal to agree a deal on welfare reform.

Former UUP health minister Michael McGimpsey has said lives could be lost if the executive parties do not stop playing politics with the health service.

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