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Brace yourselves for serious pain, warns minister Harney

BUDGET cuts will have serious consequences for health services, Health Minister Mary Harney has warned.

Ms Harney admitted that the cutbacks in the health budget next year would be "substantial".

The Government has said it needs to save €3bn and Ms Harney (below), speaking to reporters at the publication of the final report of the Crisis Pregnancy Agency, said that health accounts for about 28pc of spending.

However she would not confirm estimates of €600m for the December Budget, following, following cuts this year of €1bn.

"I can't speculate on the scale of the figures because that is not agreed, but it will be substantial. I don't want to be dishonest about that," she said.

They would look at "every possible way of minimising the impact on services", she said.

A strong focus for the HSE "will have to be on changing work practices".

"We have got to look at every possible way of minimising services, including work practices, for example. That is an exercise that will be under way in the next few weeks," she said.

Meanwhile, the the HSE has confirmed that it is examining all temporary work contracts in the Mid West Region to help meet cutbacks in its budget.

HSE West has said the estimated overspend for the west regional area is likely to be €90m.

It said its "break even" plans will affect some patients, clients and staff but they are working to minimise these effects.

The Impact union said that up to 300 temporary employment contracts could go while Siptu said that 400 jobs cuts were being flagged across the broader western region.

Impact official Andy Pike warned the HSE that if it proceeded with ending contracts, "we would be in a serious industrial dispute very quickly".

Siptu's Paul Bell claimed that the proposals flew in the face of the Croke Park agreement.