THE CRISIS in the Health Service in Northern Ireland continues. As we noted in our News Article – NHS – No Cuts in Services - of 26th September, the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust is cutting beds and has stopped recruiting staff.
At the time Solidarity General Secretary Patrick Harrington said: “Both patients and NHS staff will be the big losers here. Solidarity is totally opposed to any NHS cuts in jobs or services”.
Now the Northern Health and Social Care Trust - geographically the largest health and social care trust in Northern Ireland – has hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
Complex surgery has been halted at both the Mid-UlsterHospital in Magherafelt and WhiteabbeyHospital in Newtownabbey. This will now be transferred to the Antrim Area Hospital and the Causeway Hospital in Coleraine.
There are also serious doubts over the future of Accident and Emergency services at WhiteabbeyHospital in Newtownabbey, East Antrim. At the moment, Whiteabbey A&E is open daily, from 9 to 5.
The area around Whiteabbey Hospital would be reasonably densely populated. It made no sense to provide A&E for only 8 hours a day. It makes even less sense to shut down A&E completely.
These cuts are all part of ‘efficiency savings’ - imposed on the Trusts by Northern Ireland’s Department of Health. The Trusts have to make ‘efficiency savings’ of £700m (or 3% of expenditure each year) over the next three years. On top of that several Trusts have built up deficits which they are being told to reduce.
David Kerr of the Solidarity Executive said:
“The three main Westminster parties - Nu Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats – have all signaled that they will slash public expenditure after the next election.
Solidarity opposes all cuts in jobs and services in the NHS. We must resist these cuts now. If we don’t, conditions will only get worse.
Health workers should demand that the unions build a mass broad front campaign. We need to involve all political parties, local councilors and MLAs (Members of the Legislative Assembly) at Stormont, community groups, the churches and any other interested group.
With militant, determined action we can stop the cuts and ensure that the NHS in Ulster is adequately funded”.