Belfast Telegraph

Health workers slam Bengoa's performance-related pay proposal for Northern Ireland NHS

Health unions say Professsor Bengoa's proposals are "insulting" to health care workers.

Professor Rafael Bengoa
Professor Rafael Bengoa
RCN workers at Belfast City Hospital as part of continuing strike action in the health service. Press Eye
Mark Edwards

By Mark Edwards

The author of a major review of the Northern Ireland health service has called for performance-related pay for health care workers in a bid to produce better outcomes for patients.

Professor Rafael Bengoa, who authored a report in October 2016 which called for widespread reform of the NHS in Northern Ireland, has said nurses and doctors should be financially rewarded if they produce better outcomes than their colleagues.

Mr Bengoa made the controversial comments to the BBC's Nolan Show the week after thousands of nurses took to picket lines to protest over pay and staffing levels, which unions claim are unsafe.

He said: "One needs to be thinking of a much more flexible system, this is not a privatisation, it is trying to make the public system much more flexible. We are all trying to do that with our different health services across Europe.

"The important thing is that one can identify how to measure different teams doing different work according to the results they are getting. You can measure results.

"I think the unions have to be thinking about this type of alternative and not try to standardise everyone on everything."

Mr Bengoa said an example of this would be teams of nurses being financially rewarded if they reduce the number of patients having to be readmitted to hospital for complications after they have been discharged.

"If one is to consider putting more resources into the system, one has to think about how to use those resources in a new way, not necessarily use them in the traditional way," he added.

Members of the RCN on strike at Altnagelvin Area Hospital. Picture Martin McKeown. 18.12.19

Patrick Mullholland, from NIPSA, told the Nolan Show Mr Bengoa's proposals were "insulting" to health care workers in Northern Ireland.

"Frankly in the context of where we are today with industrial action in heroic struggle with health workers trying to defend staffing levels and improve them, it is insulting that Mr Bengoa would come off with comments like that," he said.

"It is quite useful, because what it does reveal to public sector workers, the health service workers and to the trade union movement in all its glory is the direction of travel that some people would like to take our health service- a health service which is grossly understaffed, staff not properly paid and then having to beg for pittance from their bosses- this is not an acceptable future.

"Mr Bengoa is on the wrong track and frankly Mr Bengoa does need to butt out."

Mr Mullholland said health care workers are already working at maximum capacity and that financial incentives would not work.

In his October 2016 report, Mr Bengoa urged widespread reform of the health service in Northern Ireland. It was one of a number of reports recommending comprehensive change.

Michelle O'Neill with Rafael Bengoa

It led to former health minister Michelle O'Neill outlining a 10-year plan for improvement, which included tackling waiting lists and boosting GP practices.

The former Basque Country government minister spent 15 years with the World Health Organisation.

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