Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: NHS is too top-heavy with administrators

Most people will be shocked to learn that around a fifth of the NHS workforce in Northern Ireland is made up of administrative and clerical staff.

Of course, any large organisation needs such workers, but it is the sheer quantity of them that is staggering. There are just over 11,000 compared to the largest body of workers within the NHS - nurses and midwives - the total of which stands at more than 15,000.

Ask anyone who has experience of going through the system and they will argue there are not enough doctors, nurses, midwives or other health professionals.

There are 1,800 more nurses needed in Northern Ireland. Never is it said that we need more administrative staff, not even by the health trusts.

The pressure on front line staff is immense, which accounts for doctors and nurses leaving the profession.

Also, GPs are now afraid of making wrong healthcare decisions and ending up facing criminal charges such as manslaughter.

This also accounts for the shortage of doctors in training going on to enter general practice.

Health trusts have long argued that management costs account for only a small proportion of all spending, and it is obvious that administrative or clerical staff will be paid less than those in the healthcare professions.

However, given their numbers, the admin staff do divert badly-needed resources away from front line care.

The lack of funding is one of the reasons given for the shortage of nurses here, and their professional body says those working in the local health service are paid less than their counterparts in other parts of the UK.

As we have repeatedly said, the NHS in Northern Ireland requires a radical shake-up and there is a general consensus that the Bengoa Report into streamlining the service is the way forward.

It is not about simply closing facilities, but of changing the way services are delivered so they are more effective and efficient.

However, as we have also repeatedly pointed out, implementation of this report depends on having a functioning administration, including a Health Minister, at Stormont.

There seems little likelihood of this happening in the short-term as the two main parties responsible for the impasse over the past year-and-a-half are not even talking to each other.

It's enough to make you sick.

Belfast Telegraph

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