Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

Editor's Viewpoint: Rethink £200m NHS budget cut

One only had to be at Stormont |yesterday to realise the importance of ensuring that the National Health Service runs as smoothly as possible.

The Western Health Trust was called to explain how four cancer patients were given late diagnoses because a huge backlog of X-rays had built up. One of those patients has since died and another is terminally ill. There are |serious questions to be answered over how |a backlog of more than 18,000 X-rays was |allowed to accumulate, especially since the Trust was able to clear it inside three months when the alarm was raised.

What this sad example shows is that health issues can be a matter of life and death. We |accept that every day of the week doctors and nurses within the NHS perform miracles in |curing and helping patients. And in such a vast organisation it is inevitable that from time to time some errors or problems will emerge. What managers must ensure is that problems are identified and tackled as quickly as |possible.

It is in this context that the ongoing spat |between Finance Minister Sammy Wilson and Health Minister Michael McGimpsey must be viewed with some alarm. Health officials say that Mr Wilson’s decision to lop another £200m from their budget makes it almost impossible to manage the NHS here effectively without job losses and cuts to services.

Mr Wilson believes the health budget is |generous in these straitened times.

While lack of finance was not to blame for |the problems of the Western Trust, it shows |the potential for disruption when staff are stretched to the limit as will undoubtedly |happen in the coming months and years as the public spending screw tightens. In this instance we feel that the NHS here is deserving of a |rethink on the £200m taken from its budget.

Health is a priority area, perhaps that should be the priority area, and should be given all the protection

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