SDLP Health Spokesperson Colin McGrath has said that solutions are needed to address the bleak picture facing the North’s health service.
He was speaking after a briefing from the Department of Health following last week’s budget.
South Down MLA Mr McGrath said:
“The budget will mean an almost 10% reduction in resources for our health service at a time when waiting lists are getting ever longer and people are already struggling to access the treatment they need. These cuts are going to mean a significant negative impact in a range of areas impacting both patients and staff, with cost-cutting measures under consideration including the extension of car parking charges and less staff available to cover absences.
“This situation makes it highly unlikely that hard working health staff who have been expected to put up with so much over the past few years will get the pay award they have been fighting for. As waiting lists get longer and responsibilities grow we will be expecting these staff to work even harder at a time when their real terms pay continues to fall, this just isn’t sustainable.
“If these cuts go ahead our community and voluntary sector will also be profoundly affected. Groups across the North are at risk of losing funding and if these services cease and staff leave their jobs we will be unable to get them up and running again, even if the Stormont institutions return in the weeks and months ahead. These are vital services that often provide help and support that we would expect from our health service, if they close their doors that will lead to even more pressure on services at a time when we can least afford it.
"The SDLP’s Triple Lock proposal provides us with the opportunity to resist these cuts, while working out a long-term strategy to return public finances, including within our health service, to a sound footing. When we get the Executive and Assembly up and running again the SDLP Opposition will demand a new financial package from the British government to enable the implementation of the transformation necessary to save our health service and protect our staff.”