Belfast Telegraph

Hospital spending in NI 22% higher

Hospital spending in Northern Ireland was 22% higher than in England last year, a report has revealed.

Patients brought in for planned and unexpected treatment as well as day cases all cost more, the Appleby review added. Some hospitals appeared to need twice as much cash to run as in England.

People were waiting longer for treatment, staying in hospital longer once admitted and beds were being used less intensively, the document said. Pharmaceutical costs have also risen rapidly.

However the health service in Northern Ireland is grappling with a level of need 9% higher than in England and faces a potential £1.5 billion funding gap.

"The main conclusion that should perhaps be drawn is the relative lack of improvement in productivity in Northern Ireland and the UK generally," the report said.

"Further, historically changes in productivity across the UK have been most correlated with changes in inputs rather than changes in outputs; as financial inputs grow more slowly, outputs (for a time at least) carry on growing and hence productivity increases.

"The slowdown in the growth in funding over the next four years might well therefore lead to an increase in productivity in the short term, but is not sustainable without improvements in output growth."

Professor John Appleby and his team were brought in by the Department of Health as the health service faces making massive savings in its budget.

Health Minister Michael McGimpsey said: "It is clear that to meet this huge challenge we must seek to be more efficient and, importantly, improve the quality of care of our health and social services.

"While a daunting task, Professor Appleby's review provides some evidence of the scope for improving productivity and performance."

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