Healthcare news

Health chiefs ask when exactly will DUP-Tory money be delivered?

James Brokenshire has said £50m will be released for health and education from the £1bn DUP-Tory deal
Seanin Graham

HEALTH chiefs have said they urgently require confirmation of when funding pledged through the DUP-Tory deal will be delivered to Northern Ireland.

In a statement after the announcement that £50 million is to be split between the health and education sectors, the Department of Health said its ability to spend diminishes with "each passing week".

Health is also receiving a 5.4 per cent increase in the 2017/18 budget announced by secretary of state James Brokenshire on Monday.

However, the Bengoa reform report last year stated that a six per cent rise was needed to keep services "standing still".

A department spokesman said health is facing "very significant financial pressures".

"The initial assessment of the financial position for 2018-19 and 2019-20 indicates pressures of some hundreds of millions just to maintain existing services."

He said one of the "immediate" priorities following the release of extra funding from the £1bn DUP-Conservative confidence and supply agreement would be waiting lists

"Early confirmation of additional funding is essential as our ability to spend effectively diminishes with each passing week as we move closer to financial year end on March 31 2018."

Janice Smyth, director of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), said the budget increase will only enable the health service to "break even".

"I don't anticipate that the people of Northern Ireland will see a difference in our health service and that this money will be used to address pressures such as paying locum and agency staff," she said.

"We need a minister and if we can't get a locally elected minister then it will have be a direct rule minister."

The RCN, along with other public sector workers, have been lobbying for a pay increase - but this can only be signed off by a minister.

"The situation we are now in is that the majority of nurses in Northern Ireland are now paid £600 to £800 less than their counterparts in England, Scotland and Wales. It is the same for healthcare assistants," said Ms Smyth.

"Nurses are leaving the register in their droves and going to work for agencies as the pay and conditions are better and they can choose to work where they feel safest and supported.

"The people who have created this situation are those within the health service who want to balance the books."

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