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Privatising care 'could save £50m'

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IHCP chief Hugh Mills said many private sector workers who visit the frail and elderly are not paid much above the minimum wage

IHCP chief Hugh Mills said many private sector workers who visit the frail and elderly are not paid much above the minimum wage

IHCP chief Hugh Mills said many private sector workers who visit the frail and elderly are not paid much above the minimum wage

Up to £50 million a year could be saved in Northern Ireland by leaving home and residential care to independent companies, it has been claimed.

Lower wages and pension costs would drive down the taxpayers' bill and produce greater efficiencies, the chief executive of the Independent Health and Care Providers (IHCP) group added.

Hugh Mills said public spending levels should be re-examined.

"Everybody is having to make a contribution and it involves us all. Here is an area where there are £50 million savings or £50 million that could be better used to buy better services," he said.

The IHCP is a non-profit making group of private, voluntary, charitable and church organisations which provide health and social care.

The chief executive added many private sector workers who visit the frail and elderly are not paid much above the minimum wage, don't enjoy the same benefits as in the public sector and are often not paid more for working unsociable hours. By 2026 one in five people will be aged 65 or over, he added.

Mr Mills calculated the £50 million saving by applying the lower independent average hourly cost for care of £12.77 compared to what he said was just under £20 an hour in the public sector and used previously published statistics on potential residential care savings.

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He said: "Put simply, there isn't the money to go around any more, and we need to find new ways of providing services for the care of older and vulnerable people whilst retaining and augmenting the quality of service provided.

"Reform requires a fundamental look at how we currently provide care for older people, and this issue is so complex and important that it may well be the greatest logistical challenge facing the next Assembly and those which follow it."

The Department of Health has commissioned a London-based health policy economist as it attempts to build a case for a bigger budget. The department has said it needs £800 million more than it is due to get and warned the shortfall could cost 4,000 jobs.


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