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Northern Ireland health budget rises but concerns about struggling NHS trusts remain, warns CSP

21 January 2015 - 11:07am

Health spending in Northern Ireland will increase 3.4 per cent this year but cuts in other areas of the budget could have a detrimental impact on NHS services already suffering from large deficits, the CSP had warned.

The budget was passed on Monday following agreement on the Stormont House discussions on 23 December that included controversial welfare, public sector and corporate tax reforms.

Jim Wells, Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, confirmed a £200 million increase in spending for the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety originally outlined in the draft budget.

In addition health will receive a further £4 million from the Change Fund for five projects including the all-island congenital cardiac service model.

The Northern Ireland Executive plans to axe 20,000 public sector jobs - about 10 per cent of the workforce - over the next 4 years, through a Voluntary Exit Scheme (VES) and recruitment freeze.

Overall amount almost unchanged in cash terms

The overall amount available to spend on public services in the coming year is almost unchanged in cash terms at £10.2bn - down by just 0.6 per cent.

'Although health spending is reported to be protected, it has to be remembered that last year saw a significant deficit in health budgets,' says Claire Ronald, CSP senior negotiating officer for Northern Ireland.

'Trusts are struggling to balance their budgets and we are still waiting for the full impact of last year to be felt.

'The indirect impact that other funding cuts will have on health has also yet to be measured. The trade union movement remains concerned at the detrimental impact this will have.'

A spokesperson for the Department of Health told the BBC that even with an increased budget it must find 'substantial savings' which will 'impact on the pattern of service delivery'.

Only two of the five main parties in the executive - the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Féin - voted for the final budget.

Ahead of the vote, the Northern Ireland branch of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions took out sharply critical full-page adverts in local media and is planning a march and rally for 'a fairer and better way' in Belfast on 13 March.

Allocations to health

Allocations to health from the budget change fund include the following:

  • Belfast Trust outpatients modernisation: £200,000
  • RAID (Rapid Assessment Interface Discharge): £800,000
  • NI Strategic Innovation in Medicines Management Programme: £1,500,000
  • Project Echo: £500,000
  • All-island Congenital Cardiac Service Model: £1,000,000

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