Progress report shows need for Ministers to be in post, says Bradshaw

Alliance Health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw MLA has said a progress report on health and social care transformation shows the need for Ministers to be in post to make key decisions.

The South Belfast MLA was speaking after the Department of Health released the report, over two years after the publication of Delivering Together, the plan for transforming the delivery of services here.

“We have now travelled a quarter of the way through the health and social care transformation process – a process which will affect the lives of every single person in Northern Ireland – without anyone in place to take key executive decisions,” said Ms Bradshaw.

“It is tribute to the work of many dedicated public servants progress has even been what it has, with multi-disciplinary teams and day case surgery hubs already in place in some locations in line with the Bengoa principles. We are also seeing progress, even if not always without controversy, in areas such as emergency care, pathology, cancer, breast assessment and stroke services.

“We are, however, still a long way from the development of appropriate pathways across neurology, for many rare diseases or for other complex conditions. Workshop planning also remains a seriously difficult issue, made more so by the failure to provide adequate pay awards to health workers, leading to understandable difficulties with morale and retention.

“Ultimately we are left with a transformation process where key executive decisions still cannot be made, and where there is a significant budget shortfall of perhaps as much as £1 billion to provide both existing health services and the reforms necessary.

“We are rapidly now approaching the blockage in the system where the process simply cannot continue without Ministers in place – not just a Health Minister but also a Finance Minister and other Ministers to ensure adequate resources are provided to the reform process and to health worker pay throughout the remaining period of transformation.

“We have to remind the big two parties as they enter the talks process the biggest mandates come with the biggest responsibilities. It would be preferable if key decisions could be agreed as a priority part of the talks process to ensure any Ministers coming into post can hit the ground running with cross-party agreement for the challenging decisions ahead.”