Northern Ireland

Health policy in Northern Ireland - Who is setting it?

Nursing Image copyright Science Photo Library
Image caption More than over £1m has been cut from the nurse training budget

Good news travels fast, but bad news travels even faster.

On that basis the story about cuts to nurse training funds has spread like wild fire. People are in shock.

Charities, nurses, doctors and health unions are furious. Furious not just at the impact the cuts will have, but also the harsh way the news was delivered.

It's also confusing. In a week where sums of £1bn were being reported to be part of the DUP/Tory deal, why such brutal cuts to training health staff of the future?

It's understood that on 18 May the director of nursing at the Public Health Agency wrote to the Department of Health outlining the required budget for training nurses.

That figure sat at £10m. It's now emerged that over £1m has been cut from that training budget.

A source described the move as "catastrophic".

Controversial decisions

It means further training in specialist areas including in liver disease, neo natal training, endoscopy procedures and children in schools will not happen. It will also mean no dedicated nurse for GPs' surgeries. Advanced life support resuscitation is also affected.

Questions are being asked about who is making these major controversial decisions, especially when there is no health minister in place?

Those trying to provide essential services and balance the books are asking if civil servants are allowed to do this and why no one is holding them to account.

And there is also news of further cuts to training budgets - 23% off allied health professional budgets, which include the likes of physiotherapists, speech and language therapists and occupational therapists. That means around £150,000 has been shaved off their budget.

In radiography there is a further cut of 23% to next year's budget that follows a 25% cut last year. So in total almost 50%.

Transforming the health service, removing pressure from hospitals and placing greater emphasis on the community requires people like nurses and allied health professionals. No training means services will suffer.

So in these politically uncertain times, the big question is who is currently setting health policy?

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