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Go raibh maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle. I support the motion, which is closely linked to the motion tabled by the Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety and debated in February, which called on the Minister to ensure that efficiency savings did not impact on front line services. In that debate, all the arguments were well rehearsed about the impact that proposals would have on front line services, particularly in relation to job losses, closure of residential homes and lack of domiciliary care. The Minister was left in no doubt about Members’ concerns.
Today’s motion focuses on the loss of nursing posts based on the trusts’ current best estimate, which is that 722 nursing posts will be lost. In a briefing paper supplied by the Royal College of Nursing, it is clear that the RCN supports the reform and modernisation of health and social care services. However, it is also clear that much work remains to be done by the trusts to build the confidence of the public and the healthcare workforce in the new health and social care services. The manner in which the trusts have progressed the proposals and consulted has been fragmented and confused to say the least.
In Committee, we examined how the savings are to be made and how they are likely to impact on front line services. We received evidence from a combined delegation of trade unions, who told the Committee that there was a severe lack of information for its members. We raised that issue with the Minister and with the trusts. In fact, in a previous debate in the House, the Minister recognised that that was a problem and told us that it would be rectified. However, that has obviously not happened, because we are debating the issue again.
In its briefing paper, the RCN states that it is still not aware of the details on the loss of nursing posts and where they will occur, and it has absolutely no idea of a time frame. That is totally unacceptable, and I call on the Minister for clarity on those matters.
The UUP’s amendment is, I believe, an attempt to protect its Minister. The UUP fails to recognise that the CSR proposals are a British Treasury-driven initiative. We are not masters of our own economic destiny. If Members had voted for the motion that was tabled by my party colleague Mitchel McLaughlin, which called for more fiscal autonomy for the Assembly, perhaps we would be in a different situation.