THE £7m health cuts revealed by the Western Trust will impact on services in Fermanagh, with a reduction in beds, a review of staff numbers and the cutting of services at Westbridge House in Enniskillen a feature of the savings.
The Department of Health Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) and the service commissioner, the Health and Social Care Board, have now approved a savings plan for the Western Trust totalling £7m. These savings will be implemented between November 2014 and March 2015.
In a statement released by the trust a spokesman said that in the development of the plan professional advice was sought to ensure the continued safety of patients and clients, “however with such a sizeable reduction in expenditure, the quality of services will be affected.”
In developing the savings plan, the trust considered three key areas: services, workforce controls and non-pay expenditure. Locally the unfunded Scanning Bureau service in the South West Acute Hospital will cease.
This service uses technology and new processes to improve patient experience and quality of care by significantly reducing the trust’s reliance on the paper medical record.
Daycare services provision at Westbridge House, Enniskillen and Spruce, Omagh will also cease and service users relocated to an alternative service locally.
Mental health services for older people will also be redesigned in line with the Northern Ireland Dementia Strategy. A focus on ‘community provision’ and maintaining service users in their homes will result in a reduction in beds across the trust area.
As part of the cuts the trust will also temporarily merge the Palliative Care and Rehabilitation wards at the Tyrone County Hospital, having a serious impact on Fermanagh patients and again putting pressure on staff and possibly beds.
The majority of the savings will come from implementing a number of workforce controls, including the review of staff on temporary contracts. With the health sector providing a strong employment base in the county the savings will have implications on the local work force.
Additionally there will be stricter criteria for use of agency, bank and locum staff and delay in filling some vacancies.
With reports that staff are already working under immense pressure the news will offer no comfort to those at the South West Acute Hospital.
To further curb spending non-pay controls are to be introduced, including a reduction in spend on goods and services and tighter controls on non-clinical travel and restrictions on training for the rest of the year.
It is also expected that waiting lists will grow as a result of the cuts. For all trusts the level of funding for waiting list initiatives to achieve waiting times for elective (planned) care and treatment has been reduced from previous years. This means that waiting times for assessment and treatment in the Western Trust will increase.
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