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RCEM warns health budget cuts would be “catastrophic” for Emergency Care in Northern Ireland

Thursday 30 May 2024

“How much worse can it get?”

This is the response from The Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) as it warns that planned budget cuts could be “catastrophic” for Emergency Care in Northern Ireland.

The statement follows the Executive’s voting in of their budget for 2024/5 on Tuesday (28 May). The proposed cuts include a reduction of 400 hospital beds, 500 care home beds, 1,200 jobs across trusts and over one million fewer hours in domiciliary care.

The Department of Health has since published its own assessment of the plans, warning it would have a “significant and sustained consequences for elective care, hospital discharges, patient flow, Emergency Department overcrowding and ambulance handover times.”

RCEM has joined the previous Health Minister Robin Swann, who stepped down in order to run in the upcoming General Election – and the new Health Minister Mike Nesbitt in expressing strong concern for the future of healthcare in Northern Ireland.

Dr Russell McLaughlin, RCEM Vice President for Northern Ireland said: “We would like to join the former and current Health Minister in warning of the catastrophic impact the proposed budget will have on health services.

“We know that a lack of social care options impact A&E waiting times and as one in five people in Northern Ireland are currently waiting over 12 hours to be seen in A&E – we ask, how much worse can it get?

Our recent analysis of the Emergency Medicine (EM) workforce shows there are already half the recommended number of EM consultants in Northern Ireland. We simply cannot afford to lose staff.

“The NI Executive should be increasing capacity to support health services, not stripping away resources from a health system already on its knees.

“We are deeply concerned for the impact the proposed cuts will have on patients and Emergency Care staff already working in extremely challenging conditions.

“We urge the Executive to respond to our – and The Department of Health’s concerns and provide clarity on how it will safeguard Emergency Care in light of the response to the proposed cuts.”

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