Northern Ireland

Derry city councillors told of 'home help' health cuts

Health chiefs have told Derry City Council that they are facing the most difficult financial year in a generation.

The Western Health Trust was explaining spending cuts at a meeting with councillors in the city on Tuesday.

Sinn Fein and the SDLP said they have been "inundated" by calls from people who have lost their home help service.

Sinn Fein's Patricia Logue said the cuts were affecting the most vulnerable people in society.

Ms Logue said it was "simply not acceptable" that "lifeline services" have been withdrawn from people who cannot wash themselves, prepare meals or make it to the shops without assistance.

She said that, in the long term, the withdrawl of domiciliary care packages would put a greater burden on the health services as a whole.

"People who depend on these front-line services will fall into ill health and more may have to go into residential care or hospitals than would be expected if the services were upheld."

The SDLP's Mark H Durkan said that on top of the millions of pounds in efficiency savings which the health service has had to make over the past three years in Northern Ireland, councillors were told that "right across the north, the Department of Health will have to make a further £123m of savings this year".

"It's just a staggering figure and it's really hard to comprehend how these savings are going to be realised.

"Obviously there had been fat within the system that needed to be trimmed out and cuts could be made, but it's my fear now that all the fat has been cut out and we are now cutting into the bones.

"I don't know what is going to be left," he said.