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Health Board denies claims chief executive failed to respond to union request for meeting

Chief executive Health and Social Care Board, Valerie Watts says she did meet union reps. Picture by Mal McCann

THE Health and Social Care Board has denied claims chief executive Valerie Watts failed to respond to a union chief's attempts to contact her after learning through the media of the minister's plans to abolish it.

Kevin McCabe of Nipsa said staff were being "left in a heightened state of anxiety and distress" before the holiday period, fearing for their jobs.

A Board spokesman said the union had contacted Ms Watts office on Thursday morning, after the story had broken in the media but before the department of health issued its press release outlining the scrapping of the body.

He said there was no record of emails sent to the chief executive or "other senior members of staff" before adding that the request for a meeting "was processed immediately" and held on Thursday afternoon.

Health minister Simon Hamilton announced on Thursday that the board's functions will absorbed into his department and the five health trusts.

He had indicated his intention to abolish the ailing body in November, following months of rumours of its demise following the publication of a scathing report by Liam Donaldson, England's former chief medical officer who recommended a radical overhaul of the north's health service - and specifically in the area of commissioning, the Board's main remit.

Set up in 2009 following the merger of four health boards as part of a massive public sector shake-up, it has come under increasing pressure over the past two years over its performance.

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