The RCN has strongly criticised a series of draft financial savings plans published by the five HSC trusts in Northern Ireland and warned that the proposed cost-cutting measures will “push a failing health and social care system over the edge”.
The plans have been developed by the trusts in order to meet a Department of Health requirement to make £70 million savings during the remainder of the current financial year 2017-2018.
In its responses, the RCN describes the consultation and approval process as “ambiguous and unsatisfactory”. It also asks why it would appear that ministerial approval is not required to implement these planned cuts but yet nurses have been told that the 1% pay award made in the remainder of the UK during 2017-2018 cannot be implemented in Northern Ireland as it requires ministerial approval. The RCN also highlights failures in strategic and political leadership for the health and social care system, particularly during the current suspension of the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly.
The RCN criticises the lack of meaningful prior engagement with nurses and other trust staff in developing the cost-savings plans, as well as the way that HSC leaders appear to believe that the impact of the proposed cuts on patients is somehow regrettable but unavoidable, conflicting with nurses’ professional responsibility to put the interests of patients first at all times.
The responses conclude: “The RCN accepts that the trusts have been placed in an impossible position in respect of these consultation proposals by the Department of Health and, ultimately, by the political process in Northern Ireland. However, we regard these draft financial savings plans as unacceptable and we are not prepared to offer any kind of endorsement to any of the proposals.”