LETTER: '˜Our NHS needs more funding'

I refer to Mr Pat Daly's letter under the above heading (Herald, January 18).

The NHS was set up to provide healthcare free at the point of use, it was never meant to be profit-making or indeed to break even year on year.

The cost was partly covered by the NI stamp paid by all those in work and partly by general taxation.

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Each year, government allocated money in the budget to the Ministry of Health (now Department of Health & Social Care) to cover the cost of providing the service including staff costs, equipment, medical supplies and new buildings.

I’m sure that some years they didn’t get all they wanted so savings had to be made as with all budgets.

In the past this was achieved by deferring the purchase of new equipment such as x-ray machines or new beds, whereas today it’s done by reducing front line staff or closing wards.

There were two major events in the past 30 years that greatly affected the NHS and, in my opinion, have led to the state that it is in today.

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The first was the setting up of Hospital Trusts which, amongst other things, gave control of the hospital trust budget to the CEO and managers.

The second was the advent of PFI, which in many cases bankrupted trusts because they did not understand the contracts they signed.

We have learnt in the past few days that the taxpayer is facing a bill of some £200billion by 2028 to cover the cost of PFI contracts entered into in the 1980s and 1990s.

That is money that could have paid for more nurses, doctors, equipment and hospitals.

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More recent events such as the population increase and the ageing population have only exacerbated an already difficult situation.

The Department of Health is the second largest department in terms of its budget after the DWP and this is set to rise each year over the course of this parliament but to help pay for this efficiency savings have to be made and as mentioned above this usually means reducing staff, closing wards and postponing operations, etc.

Rarely do you hear of a trust chairman or CEO freezing or reducing their salary or choosing not to take their annual bonus. When you’re in charge of making the savings you look after your own first.

We are very lucky in this area that we have one of the few hospital trusts that has an ‘outstanding’ CQC report and also one of the few that is not in debt so it’s not all bad news.

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Therefore, I would urge Mr Daly and others like him to look at the historical events that have caused the current malaise within the NHS before following the rest of the herd and blindly calling for more money to be pumped into what is, and always was, a bottomless pit!

Anthony Spender

Marine Crescent


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