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The Alliance Party members will not, and cannot, support policies initiated by the Executive or the Minister to cut the number of front line nursing staff. Despite repeated denials by the Health Minister, that will be the end result. We will support the motion and oppose the amendment, because we do not believe that cutting front line positions is necessary to attain the efficiency-saving targets as outlined.
The Minister was correct when he said that his baseline budget was inadequate. We agreed with that, but he is wrong to try to suggest that cuts in front line provision are necessary to operate within that budget. By playing politics with front line staffing positions, the Minister is only harming the case that he made for a higher budget, which we supported at the time. We appeal to the Minister and the Executive to halt the process and to stop immediately the loss of over 700 nursing jobs throughout Northern Ireland.
Any person who has been in hospital for any reason must have seen at first hand that all the nursing staff are completely overworked, almost to the point of exhaustion. The Health Service needs more qualified nurses to carry out the duties that they are expected to perform in the interests of the patients whom they serve.
Of course the Alliance Party wants efficiencies and savings to be made across all health provisions and in all Departments.