SDLP Health Spokesperson Colin McGrath has called for an urgent review of the mileage allowance for domiciliary care workers and other HSC staff.
Mr McGrath raised concerns in light of soaring fuel costs with diesel prices hitting over £2 per litre at some filling stations in the North.
Currently the NHS employee reimbursement rate is capped at 56p per mile up to 3,500 miles per year and 20p a mile thereafter.
In response to an Assembly question tabled by the SDLP, Health Minister Robin Swann stated that options are under consideration.
South Down MLA Mr McGrath said:
“The response from the Health Minister regarding an increase in the basic mileage rate allowances for nursing, community carers and other Health and Social Care staff is disappointing to say the least.
“While I welcome that options are being considered for the North, I don't accept the excuse that temporary increases which have been agreed in Scotland and Wales, could not be applied here given the election period. This was a relatively small window of time, concerns had been raised by both the SDLP and staff months ago. The mileage rate has not been reviewed since 2014, and while the allowance may have been considered fair eight years ago, it is hardly reasonable in the current financial climate at a time when inflation rates have reached a 40-year high.
“Since those initial concerns were raised, we have witnessed price hike after price hike at the pumps which is going to have a devastating impact on staff. People cannot be expected to hold out to these extortionate costs, especially in a post-pandemic economy. On a weekly basis we are hearing from domiciliary care workers whose mileage rates allowance are no longer covering their costs, leaving them out of pocket and giving them no other option than to seek alternative employment.
“Domiciliary carers are the backbone of the social care system, we cannot afford to lose them and the invaluable role they play in our communities. A proper mileage allowance needs to be delivered as soon as possible.”