Healthcare news

The £28m-a-year NHS quango that just won't die

The main offices of the Health and Social Care Board in Linenhall Street, Belfast. Picture by Mark Marlow
Seanin Graham

A HUGE NHS quango which was due to have been abolished by last month will remain in place for another two years.

The decision to axe the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) was announced in 2015 by the then DUP minister, Simon Hamilton, after its role was castigated in a major independent review.

However, The Irish News has learned that the organisation, which employs almost 600 people in administrative roles, will not now disappear until at least 2019.

The powerful body, which ‘commissions’ NHS services to be delivered by trusts, has been criticised in the past for its cost – with £28 million spent on salaries in 2015/16.

It has emerged that its director of commissioning, Dean Sullivan, is leaving his £110,000-a-year post for a new job in the Republic’s health service.

The board’s chief executive, Valerie Watts, is also head of the Public Health Agency –- which was subsumed into the board after the review.

Analysis from Seanín Graham

Department of Health chiefs have confirmed that “final decisions” on its abolition will rest with “the incoming health minister” but it will not take place until 2018/19.

When Mr Hamilton made his shock announcement to scrap the organisation in November 2015, he said the changes should take place by April 1 this year.

He said at the time that the board had “not worked properly” and he wanted to transfer its powers to the department and the chief executives of health trusts.

“My own observations and experience are that we have too many layers in our system,” he said.

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