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£1m cost of NHS staff sickness highlighted

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Staff sickness in Northern Ireland, which cost the Department of Health £1.1 million in the last financial year, should be tackled before job cuts, according to a councillor.

At a time when measures are being taken to reduce costs by cutting staff numbers and closing residential homes for the elderly, Alex Easton (DUP, North Down) said that more can be done to save money before redundancies are needed.

He said there was too much waste in the system already and he warned the Assembly that health minister Michael McGimpsey was in danger of being labelled the minister for cuts.

He said: "He has the chance to change and stop some of the cutbacks. Will he be known as the minister for spin and cuts, the same as the Labour Party's (Lord) Peter Mandelson, or will he be the minister who delivers a first class health service?"

There are plans to cut 2,500 health service jobs over the next three years, but this has been criticised by the Royal College of Nurses (RCN) which said that more nurses, not fewer, were needed.

The job cuts are part of a£700 million savings plan announced by Mr McGimpsey (UUP, South Belfast).

The plan aims to close residential homes, minimise the£7 million mail spending, cut phone bills and reduce the£32 million of travel expenses.

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