Published: 27/05/2004, Volume II4, No. 5907 Page 8

The long-awaited shake-up of health and social services in Northern Ireland will cut the number of organisations managing and delivering health and social services 'significantly', according to the minister responsible for the review of the province's services.

There are currently 19 health and social services trusts and four health and social services boards servicing the 1.7 million population of Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland Office minister Ian Pearson said responses to the Review of Public Administration in the province showed a clear desire to cut the number of public bodies.

Mr Pearson will now publish final proposals in the autumn for further consultation - the latest in a long line of consultations on Northern Ireland's health and social services.

'People feel that there are too many bodies at present and a lack of effective co-ordination and collaboration between service providers, ' he said. However, he warned of a 'lengthy implementation phase'.

Health and social services trusts and boards have been reticent in commenting publicly on the review before seeing final proposals. But one senior source at a Belfast trust said: 'There is a lot of speculation without much substance. Senior managers are receiving briefings from senior people within the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety that feel a little unreal.'

Northern Ireland politicians are also calling for a rationalisation of organisations. Democratic Unionist Party health and social services spokesperson Iris Robinson said: 'There is no call for any more than half a dozen bodies to oversee health services for 1.7 million people.'