NI Health Expenditure Up By 7.7%

Inflation, new terms and conditions for staff, developments in the service, and general population growth have all been blamed for an increase in Government spending on Northern Ireland’s health service.

The Department of Health’s report, summarising its expenditure in the Province in the past financial year up to March 2006, shows a total expenditure of £2,359 million. This is an increase of £169m on the previous year’s figure and represents a rise of 7.7 per cent.

The information collated for the report is said to be designed to assist with departmental accountability, policy support, and with bids for resources and their equitable allocation. The report looked at Ulster’s four health boards, the now defunct 19 Trusts, and the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service.

The figures show that a total of £3.5 billion was allocated to health and social care in 2005/06. Topping expenditure in terms of individual boards was the Eastern board, which spent £1,008m, or 42.7 per cent of the total commissioned for Northern Ireland, with the Northern board following with £547m, or 23.2 per cent of the total. The Southern board spent £416m (17.6 per cent) and the Western board £388m (16.4 per cent).

In total, boards handed out £651m for family practitioner services, with the largest increases in this area on medical services (11 per cent), and ophthalmic services (10 per cent). They also spent £51m on “planning and arranging the provision of services and meeting statutory requirements”, 80 per cent of which was said to relate to administration and commissioning.

The trusts spent a total of £2,331m, an increase of 7.7 per cent on last year’s figure. The majority, 40.7 per cent, was spent on acute services, with acute and elderly services together accounting for roughly two-thirds of the total.

Of the £949m spent on acute services, £600m went on inpatient services, £98m on day cases, £1m on day care, and £250m on outpatient services.

In terms of other programmes, 61 per cent of the £111m was spend on maternity and child health related to obstetrics hospital services, and within Family and Child Care, the highest expenditure was in social work and family support (£32.8m).

Over half the expenditure on Mental Health Services went on hospital services (£97 m), and the highest in elderly care was for nursing homes, with £165m being spent on such facilities.