Bed closures and increased hospital parking charges among Trust’s cost saving proposals

Antrim Area Hospital. AT5-312JC
Antrim Area Hospital. AT5-312JC

The Northern Health and Social Services Trust has just announced consultative proposals to reduce a wide range of services in order to make financial savings

A summary of the major proposals, all of which are temporary, is as follows:

Reduce expenditure on high-cost medical locum and agency nursing staff

Close two wards in Whiteabbey Hospital and day ward

Close beds in Antrim Area Hospital and Causeway Hospital

Reduce non-urgent elective day surgery

Reduce number of community-based rehabilitation beds

Contain growth in Domiciliary Care packages and Community Placements

Cease Domiciliary Care Meals provision

Reduce the use of private ambulances

Increase parking charges for visitors

The proposals are to enable the Trust meet its share (£13 million) of the overall HSC 2017/18 savings target of £70 million.

Outlining the context for the required savings, a Department of Health spokesperson said:

“The indicative resource allocation for the Department of Health is £5,095.4m, which provides an additional £224.8m for Health, when compared against the allocated budget at the start of the 2016/17 financial year.

This indicative allocation includes the additional one-off, allocation of £60.1m, in July from the Secretary of State. Despite this, the financial challenge for Health remains significant due to inflation, (widely recognised as 6% per annum), an increasing and ageing population and the cost of new treatments. HSC Trusts have been tasked by the Department with developing draft savings plans to deliver a total of £70m of savings in 2017/18 which must be achieved as part of the financial plan for this year. The HSCB will work with the Trusts during the consultation period to develop actions to mitigate as far as possible the proposed temporary service changes to maintain quality of provision. Maintaining patient safety remains the prime priority for the HSC.”

The Northern Trust’s contribution to the £70 million savings total is £13m. Savings proposals to meet this target were approved to go to public consultation by the Trust Board at an Extraordinary Board meeting which took place at 12noon today.

The Trust has identified £6.3million of savings proposals along with routine operational management which will have a lesser impact and that will contribute towards our £13m total.

In addition to these savings other proposals to deliver the remaining £6.7 million have also been made. These could have a major impact on services. In assessing the options, the Trust attempted to minimise the impact on frontline services, whilst acknowledging that some impact was inevitable. One of the proposals relates to a reduction in expenditure on non-contract agency nursing and high-cost locum doctors. These staff are used to provide cover for shortages of skilled health care workers. This proposal will effectively mean a reduction in beds and related services.

The Trust recognises the vital importance of our community services in caring for people close to their families and homes. So we have protected as far as possible our Community Hospitals and other community facilities. We have however proposed to contain the growth of domiciliary care and placements.

Speaking today, Northern Trust Chief Executive, Tony Stevens said:

“We are part of a system that is under significant financial pressure but the HSC system is working collaboratively to find solutions. We will prioritise services to protect the sickest and most vulnerable. The proposals that we have put forward today seek to minimise any adverse impact on our ongoing plans for reform and modernisation. The proposals, if implemented, will however have an immediate and direct impact on current service provision. There will be no direct impact on current staff, but the Trust will maintain its current vacancy management processes. We will continue to seek to find ways to mitigate this impact and I would encourage everyone, public service users and staff to engage in this important consultation.”