Ulster Unionist Party MLA Michael McGimpsey has welcomed the review of administrative structures within the Northern Ireland health and social care system. It comes in the same week in which it was revealed exclusively to him that the number of staff in major bodies such as the Health and Social Care Board, Business Services Organisation and Public Health Agency have swelled by over 40% since 2011.
The South Belfast MLA said:
“Given the current financial pressures on public finance, it is necessary that the administration of health service in Northern Ireland is reviewed regularly and continuously. I overhauled organisation structures when I was in the Department, replacing four Boards with one and doing away with the four previous Health and Social Services Councils and agencies. In turn, new more focused bodies such as the Public Health Agency (PHA), Business Services Organisation (BSO) and Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) were established. In recent days however, after seeking answers directly from the Minister, it has been revealed to me the numbers of staff in these bodies have ballooned over recent years.
“When I left the Department of Health at the start of 2011 there were 840 staff employed in the BSO, yet this has increased to 1,209 this year. Similarly the number of staff in the HSCB and PHA have increased from 365 to 525 and 215 to 306 respectively. Overall this represents an increase of over 43% in three years, all the time while the budgetary position of front line care got increasingly difficult. That is unacceptable.
“The announcement of this review therefore is to be welcomed. I hope it will try to get to grips with how exactly the number of administration posts have been allowed to spiral so badly out of control. In addition I now believe it may be time to follow on with the previous reforms and reduce the number of Northern Ireland’s five Health Trusts for instance.
“I am concerned, however, that what the current Minister himself called a fundamental review has not been accompanied with a terms of reference. In order to make savings and deliver efficiencies, as well of course looking after staff, it is vital that this review follows a clear process in which the potential benefits and attributes of any new structure could be assessed.
“On the wider issue of trying to take control of the wage bill in the Department, I have now asked the Minister whether he will ensure that staff in these bodies will also be eligible for the Executive’s proposed voluntary redundancy scheme.”