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Loss of Nursing Posts

Part of Private Members’ Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 5:00 pm on 20th April 2009.

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Photo of Iris Robinson Iris Robinson DUP 5:00 pm, 20th April 2009

No, I will not.

On 2 May 2008, he said:

“To start to make cuts is not what people voted us in to do”.

Just a couple of months ago, on 2 February, he was adamant:

“No cuts will be made to front line services.” — [Offical Report, Vol 37, No 3, p154, col 1].

How did we get to this point? We are here because the Minister is trapped in headline-chasing mode, which is doing the people whom he should be working for a disservice.

The sole determining factor in whether an issue becomes “top priority” for the Health Minister appears to be whether he is speaking to a group of people with an interest in the subject, or whether it is receiving specific media attention at the time. For example, take eating disorders. The DUP, in common with other parties in the House, consistently states that there is a need to improve the care available for people who suffer from eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. We all exhorted the Minister to do more to help those who were suffering owing to a lack of provision, but we were repeatedly given the brush-off.

The only thing that managed to elicit a response from the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety on that issue was his overriding desire to avoid negative publicity. Only when the BBC started to ask questions did the Minister announce the creation of a tiny unit. The Minister, speaking on the radio, suggested at one point that we could have one dedicated bed in each trust area. How on earth would that contribute to the development of an effective state-of-the-art service? It would not even touch on the problem.

We have seen that pattern from Mr McGimpsey before. He is, of course, perfectly happy to claim the credit for initiatives, such as free prescriptions, yet he tries to blame other people for his decision to axe 700 nursing posts and to close residential homes for the elderly as part of his programme of cuts — a programme that the House, including Members from his own party, has rejected.

Since he became Minister, Michael McGimpsey has stated in his press utterances that no fewer than five subjects are his top priority: suicide prevention; healthier lifestyles; improving access to mental-health care; high-quality health facilities; and health provision in the south-west. That is government by press release, lacking in strategic vision, or capacity —