East Antrim MLA and Ulster Unionist Health Spokesperson, Roy Beggs has criticised as short sighted and backward, the decision of the Department of Health to slash the funding for specialist nurse training at the Ulster University.
Roy Beggs said:
“It is madness to slash the training of specialist nurses at a time when the Northern Ireland Health Service has been increasing the workload on specialist nurses. Specialist nurses were to be empowered to do more through Transforming Your Care, enabling earlier intervention and so reducing the burden on GP’s and Hospital consultants. There are also already shortages in some specialist areas such as palliative care and advanced life support.
“But what makes this unacceptable cut even more short sighted is the demographic time bomb that exists, with over 40% of Health Visitors and District Nurses being over the age of 50.
“This cut in funding will immediately lead to a major reduction in the number of training places and in one fell swoop the Department has made an already enormous problem much worse.
“Whilst the decision will save some money in the short-term, it will end up costing the Northern Ireland public purse much more as patients who otherwise could have stayed at home with the support of trained community nurses, will have no option but to require care in an already pressed hospital environment.
“It is absurd that at a time when absolutely everyone recognises moving more healthcare into the community is the only way forward to put our health service on a sustainable footing, our local Health Department has introduced such an unwarranted and unexpected barrier to this.
“The Health Service in Northern Ireland is also becoming increasingly reliant on using agency staff just to keep key services operating. Over the last five years, the Northern Ireland health service spent £230m on paying agency staff, so the decision to limit the training available for local nurses will mean that even more money will have to be spent recruiting locum nurses with these specialist skills.”