Increase in health mileage welcomed but further action urged amid high fuel costs

William Smith


William Smith


AN INCREASE in mileage rates for health workers has been welcomed locally, but further action has been urged as fuel prices continue to rise.

Health Minister Robin Swann recently announced that the mileage rate for Health Trust staff, including domiciliary care workers and district nurses, would increase to 30p per mile, after a 3,500 mile threshold is reached.

The current rates are 56ppm for the first 3,500 miles, and 20ppm for each mile thereafter - but following the announcement, this will increase to 30ppm.

However, health workers may not receive this additional rate right away, with the Health Minister stressing that staff payroll systems "will take some time to implement".

Andy McKane, local chair of Unison, said that the news was welcome given current fuel prices - but he has urged the Health Minister to ensure the uplift is paid "as soon as possible."

Mr McKane said: "Obviously this is welcome news, but it opens up a host of questions, including how soon can the uplift be paid. An announcement is one thing, but money in the pocket is another. As health workers know, the crisis is now, and the money is needed now.

"Of course, this announcement welcome news and a step in the right direction given the current situation. Hopefully this sets the precedent for further action and long-term investments made when it comes to mileage rates and travel, as there doesn't seem to be any indication that fuel prices will drop soon."

Ulster Unionist councillor, Matthew Bell, said he was "delighted" to learn of the uplift, which he said is very much needed given the rural nature of the Fermanagh and Omagh district.

He said: "I am delighted by the announcement from Robin Swann that Health Trust employees, including district nurses and domiciliary care workers, will receive an increase to 30ppm for mileage above 3,500 miles.

"Due to the rural nature of Fermanagh and Omagh, many district nurses and other domiciliary care staff have had to travel considerable distances every shirt helping and caring for people across our district.

"This increase will cover for their fuel costs and will benefit our healthcare staff, especially in a period where fuel prices continue to rise and the cost of crisis worsens."

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein MLA, Maolíosa McHugh, said the increase in mileage for health workers is welcome - but "more must be done" to support the many care workers who are working in the independent sector and for agencies who continue to struggle with fuel costs.

“This will reduce some of the financial pressures facing health Trust workers, particularly those who use their car frequently - such as those based in rural areas who often have the biggest distance to travel between patients - as the current rate of mileage reimbursement over 3,500 miles will rise to 30 pence per mile.

“However, this intervention won't help the many care workers working in the independent sector and for agencies who will continue to struggle to fill their cars.

“No workers, particularly those providing vital care in the community, should be faced with having to consider whether they can afford to go to work.

“Health is a priority for Sinn Féin, we need an Executive up and running today so we can get on with the job of investing an extra £1 billion in the health service to recruit more doctors and nurses, cut waiting lists and transform health.

“The DUP need to end its boycott of the Assembly and Executive and make politics work in the interests of health and social care workers and their families.”

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