Unison Replies To The Donaldson Report

Patricia McKeown, Regional Secretary of UNISON, the health care union, has made a no-holds-barred statement of the Donaldson Report released on Tuesday.

She said: “Bets are on that the only section of the Donaldson Report the Minister will seize upon is the configuration of services for 1.8 million people.

“In doing so he will miss the point that this report is a damning indictment of political decisions and the decision-makers at the top of the health care system. In large part the Donaldson Review confirms what UNISON has been saying for the past 9 years. The current health and social care system in Northern Ireland is not fit for purpose and never was. It was imposed on us by the outgoing Direct Rule administration. It was based on the English model which is now in deep trouble. Donaldson finds that our system is even worse.

[caption id="attachment_54544" align="aligncenter" width="540"]UNISON has called for a fresh strategic review of the Northern Ireland health system. UNISON has called for a fresh strategic review of the Northern Ireland health system.[/caption]

“The Review looks at the size of the population but not at the state of health of 1.8 million people. If it addressed that core issue it would find that we have outrageous levels of health inequality and high levels of chronic illness. We need a new model of public health to turn this around, not an unseemly rush by the Minister and his bureaucrats to close hospitals.

“Nine years ago UNISON advocated the establishment of a panel of international health experts to advise on what a model of public health might look like for the people of Northern Ireland. That call was ignored by the health system. The call has now been made again by Donaldson. From the statements made by the Minister today we suspect it will be ignored again.

“It is unfortunate that Donaldson did not include the health service unions in his review. Had he done so he would have received detailed evidence of Adverse Incidents ignored, threats to the staff wishing to submit such reports and the weakness of local whistle blowing policies.

“Nevertheless the report rightly recognises the extreme pressures on the service and the staff including A&E and these pressures cannot be ignored.

“There now needs to be a detailed evaluation of the foundations of Transforming Your Care before Donaldson’s recommendations for a new plan are brought forward.

“Importantly and for the first time the Review recognises that the system of commissioning health and social care needs radical change. However UNISON is clear that the options must include the abolition of the commissioner/provider split which of itself would release hundreds of millions of pounds into direct health and social care provision.

“The time to act on the development of a public health model is now. We call on the Minister to rise to the challenge, sweep aside the inadequate review of administration he proposed before Christmas and come up with new terms of reference which incorporate key elements of the Donaldson Review.”

The gauntlet has been thrown down by Unison in a tough, hard-biting statement which challenges the politicians, the health bureaucrats and the institutions to create a new model for the health system. In the coming weeks there will be much debate about the Donaldson Report.

Fundamentally, as Patricia McKeown indicates, Health Minister Jim Wells may be forced to reconsider the merits of Transforming Your Care and it may eventually be consigned to the bin and a new health strategy created on the basis of wide consultation across all sectors.

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