Clarification needed on specifically why so much health service transformation is being delayed, says Bradshaw

Alliance Health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw MLA has asked why so many parts of the health service transformation programme are being delayed.

Health Minister Robin Swann last week launched a strategic framework for rebuilding health and social care services, designed to reconstruct in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, South Belfast MLA Ms Bradshaw said clarification was needed as to why the document had so many New Deal, New Approach priorities for the transformation of health and social care marked red, for anticipated delay.

“It is understandable the focus of all aspects of our health and social care system has been on the coronavirus over the past few months. No-one doubts this prioritisation was correct and has proven worthwhile,” she said.

“However, the fact so many services had to be paused or effectively cancelled over that time period is a perfect demonstration our healthcare structures are not fit for purpose, given rising demand on them, and therefore why transformation of them is so vital. Indeed, the pandemic has shown we need to move forward with reforms more quickly, not more slowly.

“Yet what we see is a document which is too much about rebuilding what we had and too little about reforming what we have. The document suggests we now cannot expect to see a cancer strategy, stroke reconfiguration or a new action plan on waiting times this year. Why specifically is this?

“The pandemic merely shows why a cancer strategy is urgent to ensure screening is never again disrupted on this scale, why stroke reconfiguration is necessary to ensure people receive help and support at the most appropriate location and indeed not necessarily in hospital, why waiting times, often to help with issues which make people more vulnerable to viruses, are so utterly intolerable. This is, therefore, no time to be applying the brakes on the work needed to deliver these urgently.

“This crisis has demonstrated clearly the need for a more all-encompassing healthcare service which responds to needs earlier and faster, not least so we have better information to cope with epidemics when they strike and so fewer people are in danger from viruses such as this one. Therefore, this is no time for pausing.

“We now need full clarification of why many urgent issues are being pushed back and of when exactly they are being pushed back to. We also need to know if one reason for delay is shortage of resources – because if that is so, we need to make the case for resources, not delay.”