Leading article

Certainty needed on future of Health and Social Care Board

One of the most frequent accusations faced by the Stormont during the past ten years was its inability to bring about change and deliver joined-up government.

Either there was a failure to reach a decision or a move that was approved by one minister ended up being swiftly reversed by a successor.

It is not entirely fair to suggest that nothing of consequence ever got done but there was certainly a perception of an inefficient, stop-start administration that failed to tackle the big issues.

Some efforts have been made to simplify the unwieldy bureaucracy which governs key public services but even that process has proved frustratingly slow.

The case of the Health and Social Care Board is a prime example of an additional layer of bureaucracy that a minister decided should be axed and yet is still with us at a considerable cost to the public purse.

The board had been established as part of an earlier shake up in the health service which was supposed to streamline various agencies.

It was a powerful administrative organisation that controlled a multi-billion pound budget which was used to commission services for health trusts to deliver.

The body came under intense scrutiny, particularly in terms of its increased wage bill and staff numbers at a time when the health sector was facing cutbacks.

In November 2015, then health minister Simon Hamilton announced the board was to be closed down saying the system did not work and inhibited innovation.

He proposed that many of the board's functions and staff would revert back to the department of health and other bodies, which seemed a sensible move.

All this was supposed to happen within 18 months but it now appears it could take at least another two years for the board to be wound up.

Given that this organisation costs £28 million a year in terms of wages alone, it is a matter of concern that this issue is dragging on.

Board staff and the wider health service deserve certainty.

Leading article

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