Health cuts protests to go ahead despite £40m funding boost

Protests backed by trade unions are to take place across Northern Ireland on Friday
Protests backed by trade unions are to take place across Northern Ireland on Friday

Protests against cuts to the health service are to take place across Northern Ireland on Friday despite a £40 million funding reprieve announced on Wednesday evening, campaigners say.

Extraordinary board meetings are planned for each of the five health and social care trusts at noon on Friday to discuss ‘savings plans’ announced in August that were to see cuts to services worth £70 milllion.

The Department of Health said Wednesday’s funding announcement means the “more difficult trust proposals” will be “mitigated”, but campaigners say they still plan to protest against significant cuts still due to go ahead.

In practice, the extra cash means a threatened closure of one of two care homes in Londonderry, Rector Field or William Street, will no longer go ahead, that fertility treatments due to be cut by the Belfast Trust wil still be on offer, that 100 beds will be saved in the Belfast Trust, along with a range of other cuts now unlikely to go ahead.

Shaun Harkin, an organiser of the ‘Stop the Cuts’ campaign, told the News Letter protests will still take place across Northern Ireland despite the extra funding being announced.

Trade union Unison had already announced their intention to “exercise our speaking rights” at each of the five extraordinary board meetings due to take place, while another trade union, Nipsa, is amongst those backing the ‘Stop the Cuts’ campaign.

A Department of Health spokesperson, meanwhile, told the News Letter that the extra funding would be used to “mitigate” against £31 million worth of cuts, less than half the total £70 million ‘savings’ announced in August.

“The £40m will provide the funding needed for a range of commitments, including funding for diagnostic activity and limited regional waiting list initiative commitments and allow the majority of the £31m of more difficult trust proposals to be mitigated,” the spokesperson said.

Mr Harkin said: “We welcome the fact that residents aren’t going to be evicted from their homes, that front line services aren’t going to be shattered right now, but that there’s still massive cuts, whether that’s £30 million or £40 million in cuts.

“The health service can’t take these sort of cuts. It needs more investment, not less.

“There’s been robust protests in places like Derry and Enniskillen, so I think that’s been a factor that the trusts are having to take in.”