Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland health service facing resourcing crisis amid 1,800 vacancies – health chief

An extra £100 million has been set aside to overhaul the system as part of the DUP’s confidence and supply agreement.

The NHS in Northern Ireland is facing a crisis over the number of unfilled posts, a senior official said.

Approximately 1,800 vacancies need to be plugged. The service wants to recruit more people to transform care in areas like nursing and social care, Health and Social Care Board chief executive Valerie Watts said.

We are facing into a bit of a resourcing crisis in Northern Ireland in terms of the number of vacancies we are carrying across the health and care system Valerie Watts

Some measures tackling the high suicide rate, improving social care and reforms to set budgets over longer periods have not yet been introduced because no ministers are in place at Stormont, officials said.

Ms Watts said: “We are facing into a bit of a resourcing crisis in Northern Ireland in terms of the number of vacancies we are carrying across the health and care system.”

This week the Department of Health announced what it termed a “new era” of GP care.

The NHS plans to recruit 200 extra posts for new multi-disciplinary teams involving physiotherapists and mental health specialists in surgeries in Co Down and the north west.

Ms Watts joined other health officials giving evidence at Westminster to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee of MPs.

An extra £100 million has been set aside to overhaul the NHS as part of the DUP’s confidence and supply agreement to support the minority Government at Westminster in key votes.

  • £30 million to stem an increase in waiting times.
  • £15 million for primary care.
  • £15 million in workforce development.
  • £30 million to reform hospital and community services.

Around a quarter of the total confidence and supply money from the DUP’s Tory deal earmarked to transforming health care has been used so far but most of the spending will take place in the last quarter of this year.

Officials admitted it had been challenging to properly allocate money which they were not involved in negotiating.

The £100 million boost includes:

– £30 million to stem an increase in waiting times.

– £15 million for primary care.

– £15 million in workforce development.

– £30 million to reform hospital and community services.

The rest covers areas like ill-health prevention and quality improvement measures.

In the absence of ministers decisions have not been taken on areas like charging for services.

The extra money has been used to pilot steps in certain areas. A “comprehensive list” of transformation projects has been drawn up, Ms Watts added.

She said: “These are directly transformative in nature and considerable effort has gone into preparing the business cases.”

Officials admitted reforming a complex health and social care system did not just happen overnight and preparatory work was needed which was not always immediately available.

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