Belfast Telegraph

Department points to our greater level of need and insists it has cut headcount in past year

By Adrian Rutherford

The Department of Health said it has cut administration staff in the last 12 months - and cautioned against comparisons with other parts of the UK.

A National Audit Office (NAO) report suggested Northern Ireland has 42% more non-clinical staff relative to our population than England.

The department said staffing levels in the health sector are regularly kept under review to improve efficiency and effectiveness.

"Comparisons with other jurisdictions in the UK are not necessarily valid because job classifications vary," a spokesperson said.

The department said there had been a 2.5% decrease in admin staffing levels in the trusts in March 2014 compared to March 2013. Staffing levels in estates and support services remained steady, but all other occupational families have shown an increase, it said.

"In particular, allied health professions, science, other professional and technical (posts) combined have risen by 3.1%, nursing and midwifery has risen by 1.8%, medical and dental by 1.8% and social services by 1.3%," a spokesperson added.

Auditors also found more is spent on health than elsewhere in the UK.

The NAO report said that on average £2,106 was spent on health for every person in Northern Ireland in 2010/11 compared to £1,900 in England, £2,017 in Wales and £2,072 in Scotland.

However, the details were rejected by the Department of Health, which told auditors that spending on health here was lower due to an error in disaggregating spending between health services and personal social services.

It said our spending per person was actually £1,975, putting us below Scotland and Wales – but still £75 ahead of England. The NAO noted the response in its report but did not pass comment on the validity of the department's suggested figures.

The Department of Health spokesman said: "The comparison of spend per head between the four countries is a complex one, as the figures provided by NAO do not take account of the relative need in each country.

"For example, Professor John Appleby reported in March 2011 that the level of need in Northern Ireland was some 9% higher than that in England. On that basis, spend per head is expected to be higher."

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