Northern Ireland health funding gap revealed

There is a 9% greater need for health and social care services in Northern Ireland than in England, according to a review carried out by Professor John Appleby, who has identified a £1 billion shortfall in funding to meet the population’s needs. The figure excludes the impact of current spending cuts in Northern Ireland.

The Northern Ireland Association of Social Workers (NIASW – part of BASW) described the figures as “alarming” given the recent budget decision to slash 19% from social care spending. NIASW manager Carolyn Ewart said: “This structural funding gap highlights the desperate need for additional health and social care spending in Northern Ireland, not for damaging cuts that will further threaten the health and well-being of individuals and often sorely deprived communities.”

Professor Appleby, a chief economist at the King’s Fund, was commissioned to carry out an update of the review of Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland that he carried out in 2005.

Health minister Michael McGimpsey welcomed the report, which also reassesses the position of Northern Ireland over the next four years against the 2002 Wanless vision for health and social care. Mr McGimpsey said: “Professor Appleby has concluded that Northern Ireland health and social care is facing a funding gap of £1 billion to meet the needs of the population. In addition, he has highlighted a £1 billion productivity challenge on top of that facing health and social care in Northern Ireland by 2014/15.

“It is clear that to meet this huge challenge we must seek to be more efficient and, importantly, improve the quality of care of our health and social services. While a daunting task, Professor Appleby’s review provides some evidence of the scope for improving productivity and performance,” said Mr McGimpsey.

The minister concluded that this would be a “major challenge for the health and social care service in Northern Ireland, particularly when my budget has been continually cut”.

Professor Appleby’s update is available here