Belfast Telegraph

Department of Health gets £40m cash injection - but urgent reform needed, it says

An additional £40m has been made available for the Department of Health.

Currently Northern Ireland's health trusts are engaged in a consultation process to try and save £70m from their budgets.

The additional £40million made available on Wednesday, will help towards reducing the amount of savings needed.

The Department of Health said that while the money would provide respite for the system, to address ever-increasing pressures, the system urgently needed transformation.

A statement said: "The financial issues faced this year will only grow in intensity as we move forward. The initial assessment of the financial position for 2018-19 and 2019-20 is that pressures of over some £430million and £670million respectively will need to be addressed just to maintain existing services.

"Demand for health services is growing steadily, as people live longer lives, chronic conditions increase, and new drugs and technologies are developed."

The statement continued: "The Health and Social Care system continues to face serious financial pressures and the £40million offers important short-term respite. However, the best long-term way to counter these pressures is transformation.

"It is absolutely imperative to pursue the reform of the system to safeguard vital services and ensure it is fit for the future.

"As the Expert Panel, led by Professor Bengoa reported, reform must be addressed in a systematic and sustainable way which is in parallel with improving the quality of services. Transformation plans must continue for our health and social services so that resources are used in the most effective way in the best interests of patients."

Sinn Féin MLA Pat Sheehan has welcomed the public confirmation of the £40 million cash injection for the Department of Health.

The Sinn Fein representative said: "Sinn Féin has argued for some time the Department of Health was aware that additional resources were available.

"We welcome the allocation of an additional £40m.

"This money should have been released to address some of the pressures on health without resorting to cuts and the farcical consultation process, which is now meaningless.

“It has always been our view these cuts were unnecessary and the consultation was a cynical exercise, which only succeeded in creating division and concern within the wider community.

The Sinn Féin health spokesperson added: "People responded to a consultation process based on pressures of £70m facing HSC services. Today's cash injection of £40m for health significantly changes the circumstances in which the public consultation was held.

“Given the changed financial circumstances Trusts cannot, and should not, make recommendations to the Department of Health without a full comprehensive consultation process on a new set of proposals, which fulfils its Section 75 obligations under its Equality Scheme."

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