28 Jan 2009

Health workers fear effect of spending review

7:49 am on 28 January 2009

Health workers are worried a review of government spending could see vital services cut.

Former Treasury head Murray Horn has been appointed to chair an eight-member ministerial group set up to look at cutting health sector bureaucracy.

Health Minister Tony Ryall has said any savings will be spent on improving services for patients.

Nurses Organisation chief executive Geoff Annals said the minister may be disappointed if he is expecting the ministerial group to find rooms full of bureacrats doing nothing.

Mr Annals said the ministerial group will have to weigh up the value of different health services, then decide which ones to cut.

The Public Health Association is cautioning against putting too much emphasis on the front line.

The association's executive director Gay Keating said some people who might be termed "bureaucrats" are as vital as doctors and nurses.

Tony Ryall said the group's mandate is not to cut overall health spending. Rather, he said, its aim is to find savings in the bureaucracy that can then be spent directly on improving patient care.

He said doctors and nurses will be given more say in how money is spent on health services.

The review panel is the first in a series of groups the National-led Government intends setting up to review public spending under its confidence and supply agreement with ACT.

Listen to Tony Ryall on Checkpoint