Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.Donate to our crowdfunder
I am more than happy to comment on that, because it touches on what Mrs Robinson said earlier. The Minister was stating the fact that it was a better settlement than that which the DUP wanted him to be given. Indeed, for months, the DUP campaigned against a single penny extra being given to the Minister of Health and his Department.
When the DUP was in opposition, before devolution, it wanted a 20% increase and was critical of increases as small as 9%. However, when it reached a position where it could do something about the funding of the National Health Service in Northern Ireland, it dramatically failed to do anything. The Minister and Members on this side of the House agreed that the uplift was very welcome, in comparison with what every DUP Member wanted the Health Service to be run on. That is my simple answer.
Members also had to sit through the spectacle of the DUP attempting to defend smoking advertisements at points of sale. Those advertisements predominantly affect children and have the potential to place a great financial burden on the Health Service in Northern Ireland. The Ulster Unionist Party will not be lectured by a party whose record on health has been completely discredited.
The proposal to reduce the number of nursing posts is simply a proposal. Many of the trusts’ proposals have just arrived on the Minister’s desk, and no final decisions have been taken. My party fully understands the concerns expressed on this issue. The Minister will examine those proposals closely before taking any final decisions. I was grateful to the Minister for his recent decisions regarding Skeagh House and Slieve Roe House.
However, if the amendment were passed today and agreed by the Executive, that would mean that such a proposal would not have to be implemented in the current CSR period, which will allow proper time for real change to take place. If the DUP is serious about what it says, it will have no problem in supporting the amendment. If it does not want efficiency savings and does not deal with the consequences of what it has proposed and agreed to, it must reverse its position.
Let me be clear: Ulster Unionist Party Members are not against efficiency savings. We believe in an efficient and effective Health Service, but we have concerns about the size and pace of some of the changes that are required in such a short period. Having listened to those on the front line, including UNISON and the RCN, we know that our amendment has the support of front line health workers.
If Members support the amendment, they will charge the Minister with reviewing the proposals and making a case for exemption in the current CSR period. I appeal to all Members to listen to our health workers and to support the amendment, thus allowing proper time for real and meaningful change. After all, when it comes to health, we are dealing with individuals’ lives.