Northern Ireland faces NHS costs dilemma

15 Jul 99
The Northern Ireland Office has denied that the local health service faces 'nightmare cuts' in the wake of this year's pay award to doctors and nurses.

16 July 1999

It emerged this week that the pay rises would cost the Northern Ireland NHS £11m more than had been put aside for the annual increases. In November, when allocations to spending departments were announced, £44m of the extra £102m the service will receive this year was earmarked for pay increases. But it has been revealed that this balance will be taken from cash allocated for service developments.

The cash shortfall is certain to be high on the new health minister's agenda if full devolution to the Northern Ireland Assembly goes ahead. Health and social services boards are warning that service enhancements would be postponed. But the health and social services department insisted there was 'no question' of service cuts.

'Maintaining existing services and ensuring that staff are fairly rewarded must come first,' a spokesman said.

'A rescheduling of some planned service developments, which will mean in practice delays of no more than a few months, is the most sensible way of meeting this additional pay pressure.'


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