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Health Service Efficiency Targets

Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:30 am on 5th November 2007.

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Photo of Danny Kennedy Danny Kennedy UUP 2:30 am, 5th November 2007

1. asked the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety to detail the efficiency targets he has set for the Health Service over the next three years.        (AQO 625/08)

Photo of Michael McGimpsey Michael McGimpsey UUP

My Department is finalising challenging efficiencies amounting to £343 million by 2010-11 as part of the Executive Committee’s agreed approach to the comprehensive spending review. That builds on efficiencies of £146 million that have already been achieved. Those efficiencies will be attained through a range of measures, such as improved procurement, more efficient prescribing and dispensing of medicines, improved productivity and reduced administration. My officials are working closely with Health Service professionals to develop detailed plans for the delivery of those efficiencies. Until I am assured that they are real efficiencies, and not simply cuts by another name, I will not support specific efficiency targets for the Health Service.

Photo of Danny Kennedy Danny Kennedy UUP

Will the Minister confirm that in attempting to achieve the 3% efficiency targets, as he has just outlined, patients will still come first, and that no cuts will occur at the expense of doctors, nurses and those in the front line of healthcare?

Photo of Michael McGimpsey Michael McGimpsey UUP

Patients will always come first; that is why we have a Health Service. The efficiency targets are very challenging for the Health Service — some £340 million over three years, in addition to the £146 million that has already been achieved, which equates to 3% in efficiencies and 5% in areas of administration. Those are very stiff targets to meet, but I am confident that we can meet them where productivity, procurement, pharmaceuticals and administrative pay and related savings are concerned, although it will be difficult and challenging.

As the Health Service evolves and changes direction, there will be a change in emphasis for jobs. For example, care in the community and looking after patients at home requires a different type of support and personnel from what is required in the acute setting, so there are going to be changes. However, the main concern is always about improving the service for patients.

Photo of Carmel Hanna Carmel Hanna Social Democratic and Labour Party

Will the Minister assure the House that there will not be any loss of front-line Health Service jobs due to the efficiency savings?

Photo of Michael McGimpsey Michael McGimpsey UUP

I refer the Member to the last part of my answer, where I said that I will not support the efficiencies until I am assured that they are not cuts by another name. I am not in the business of making cuts. I am in the business of making efficiencies and making the Health Service work to its absolute optimum in improved productivity, better buying and efficient prescribing, in order to support patients. Patient care comes first.

Photo of Alex Easton Alex Easton DUP

In light of the efficiency savings that the Minister has outlined, will he tell the House when he will reach a decision on the review of artwork that he announced, and the possible savings of around £12 million that could go into front-line services?

Photo of Michael McGimpsey Michael McGimpsey UUP

I do not recognise the figure of £12 million, but I did order a review, because under direct rule up to 1% of the bill for new capital programmes could be spent on artwork. Artwork is a very broad term; with newbuilds, it could mean softening the environment within what are very functional buildings and structures — it is not about buying pieces of art to hang on the wall.

I will come back to the House with the findings of the review, which I ordered so that I could understand the situation better. The findings should be available in a reasonably short time.