There will be no reduction in health services, hospital beds or staff this year, MLA Doug Beattie has claimed.
The Assembly member was part of a delegation from the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) which met with the Southern Health and Social Care Trust on Wednesday to talk about the in-year savings of £6.4million forced on them by government.
Other members of the delegation included Rosemary Barton MLA, Councillor Julie Flaherty and Alderman Ian Burns.
Said Mr Beattie, “It was a frank and open meeting where issues around funding were explored and detailed plans explained.
“It was explained in extremely clear terms that over £4million of the savings will be found through all-year slippage.
“With monies only being allocated in August instead of April 2017 it means that part of this funding will simply slip to the 2018 financial year. That is good housekeeping by the Southern Health Trust and means the public will feel no effects from this in-year financial management savings for 2017.”
He added, “The other bulk saving - £1.1million - is that around staff and staff turnover.
“The UUP delegation had a real concern that this might mean less doctors and nurses on our wards.
“However, it was explained that this turnover is the natural process that happens year on year and will not lead to a reduction in front facing staff.
“In simple terms, instead of investing the monies that is saved, when advertising a post and waiting to recruit a replacement, it is returned as part of the in-year financial management saving for 2017.
“There will always be genuine concerns about the NHS, its structures, staff and service delivery that must to be addressed and overhauled once a Minister is in place. This strategic management is a failing of the politicians and not the NHS.
“This Southern Health Trust savings plan, which will now go out for public consultation, has been well thought out and ensures that the delivery of services, hospital beds and staffing will not be adversely affected.”
Mr Beattie said it was clear that the NHS throughout the UK is in crises. “This is doubly so here in Northern Ireland with the lack of strategic leadership from politicians in light of the collapse and failure to re-establish the Executive and appoint a Department for Health Minister,” he said.
Meanwhile, the trust is hosting public meetings in Craigavon Area Hospital on September 26 and in the Market Place Theatre Armagh on September 28 as part of its consultation with the public. (See page 11).