Health Trust CEOs Warn Of Very Difficult Times Ahead

Joint statement from Trust CEOs indicated the deep concern for the health service

In a joint statement issued by chairs of the six health Trusts across Northern Ireland, a bleak and worrying picture is evolving fast that the the NHS is in serious trouble.

The CEOs said that they are “deeply concerned at the financial outlook for the frontline services which our organisations deliver.

“We have no wish to be involved in political controversy and are very mindful of the growing budgetary pressures on all parts of the public sector.”

As senior civil servants they are stepping back from the brink of the political cliff edge and are pleading with the politicians to find a solution. But can one be found or is the NHS in NI in terminal freefall ?

The statement added: “Our focus has to be on everyone in Northern Ireland who needs the health and social care services that our organisations provide.

The roadway leading up to the Ulster Hospital complex. Government funding threatens patient care in hospitals and social care.

“It is our duty to warn of the very real potential for avoidable and serious harm being caused to people in our community who require our help, as a result of inadequate budgetary provision.

“HSC Trusts have, of course, an onerous responsibility to make efficient use of all public resources.

“Intensive efforts are ongoing to deliver a significant level of savings this year, as detailed in the financial assessment published on 28/05/2024 by the Department of Health.

“As this document makes clear, even with these savings, a projected very significant shortfall remains that could only be filled by measures with high and catastrophic impacts.

“Such cutbacks would inevitably include bed closures as well as reductions in outpatient care, operating lists, domiciliary care and nursing care packages.

“This would impact damagingly on the whole community in Northern Ireland, particularly the most vulnerable.

“We are keenly aware of the need to reform services and invest in new technology. We know too that health drives our economy and contributes on numerous levels to well-being in society.”

But the CEOs have set out their stall saying without extra cash there will be drastic cuts.

The pathway at the Downe Hospital in Downpatrick leading from the carpark. The health service in NI is under tremendous strain say the 6 CEOs of the Trusts and funding and reforms are needed to stabilise the situation.

They continued: “The reality is that without significant additional funding this year and longer-term financial security, the Health Service will be further destabilised and the public will bear the brunt.

“We have a collective responsibility as leaders to highlight these concerns, on behalf of our dedicated workforce and all those who rely on the vital services our organisations provide.

“We will continue to work constructively with staff, elected representatives and other stakeholders to pursue the best outcomes for patients and service users.

“Health and social care services have endured a prolonged period of instability and pressure. The escalating budgetary situation represents another destabilising factor.”


Chair Jonathan Patton SEHSCT

Anne O’Reilly NHSCT

Ciaran Mulgrew BHSCT

Eileen Mullan SHSCT

Tom Frawley WHSCT

Michele Larmour NIAS.


The statement raises questions such as are the CEOs going to wring their hands performing their “duty” while the regional NHS collapses brick by brick, patient by patient, or is there something else creatively they can do to pressurise the NI Assembly and the UK government to ensure that we in NI have health equality with those across the rest of the UK ?

But what more can the CEOs realistically do ?

Given that the budgetary detail is beyond the ken of the average person, how do we know that our health system hasn’t turned into a service over the years promoting professional perfectionism and centralisation at the expense of isolated and vulnerable people in our society as it fractures before our eyes with the human misery that it will bring ?

Many people in East Down now feel the need for the Trust’s reassurance that the Trust is in fact treating the people in their area equitably and that they won’t be thrown under the proverbial bus.

This crisis has come at a difficult time when once again politics in the form of a general election prevails. And with proper debate on health matters curtailed due to going into purdah, all too often our health becomes a subjective political football stymying transparent discussion in a time of absolute urgency.

Let’s hope common sense prevails. But if the Assembly was a racehorse, I’d say it wouldn’t pass its fitness test by the vet before the race. It just might retire out to pastures green!