UNISON Northern Ireland slams new NHS ‘turnaround’ plan

UNISON Northern Ireland has responded angrily to yesterday’s announcement by health minister Edwin Poots of a new ‘turnaround’ plan for the area’s health services.

Regional secretary Patricia McKeown said that Mr Poots’s plan “takes no account of the ongoing trust financial deficit and the further 6% of cuts to be made in this financial year.

“The minister is burying his head in the sand in response to the financial crisis affecting the Northern and other trusts.

“His recommendations essentially require long-term cultural change. This is alarming given the implication in his statement that there are concerns over the accuracy of current death rates.

“Do we have a Mid Staffs crisis on our doorstep? Evidence for a recent UNISON survey of health staff indicates that we may have. This, above all, must be addressed by urgent action.”

Ms McKeown went on to say that, since Mr Poots “has been in power for two years”, the union was entitled to ask “how this crisis happened on his watch when he had all the facts.”

She noted: “Evidence of the crisis was known to all UNISON members working on the Antrim and Causeway sites.

“It created the desperate stresses in A&E departments and on the wards by the sustained policy of 95% bed occupancy. It was exacerbated by what has been proven to be the premature closures of A&E facilities at Whiteabbey and Mid Ulster hospitals. We gave him and others this evidence.

“His big proposal is the option for the closure of Causeway. By now, everyone understands health service ‘speak’. Phase two of the turnaround plan states that there ‘must be a decision on the future of Causeway Hospital’. We all know what that has come to mean.

“Enhancing ‘leadership capacity’ is also not enough – although this speaks volumes about the previous trust leadership and governance. It requires the minister to give proper leadership by making money available to the trust to deal with all issues raised.”

And Ms McKeown continued: “We are also entitled to ask what role is being played by the Health and Social Care Board and the Public Health Agency other than seconding staff to cover the crisis? It is about time that these bodies were held accountable for the increasing problems being faced by our health service. Their silence is damning.”

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Key issue: Fighting cuts and privatisation in the NHS

Campaign: Million Voices for Public Services