NHS can't stand still, says Health Minister Simon Hamilton
A major overhaul of Northern Ireland's health service is needed and "bricks and mortar mustn't be allowed to become barriers" to changing the system, the minister in charge has warned.
In a hard-hitting speech, Simon Hamilton said that in order to deal with the challenges of a rising, ailing population "we can't stand still".
Visiting the Belfast Cancer Centre, the DUP minister said he was not afraid of becoming unpopular due to the tough decisions that he will face taking in order to make the service "world class".
"We can all have attachments to the bricks and mortar of the NHS," Mr Hamilton said.
"Maternity wards where our children were born. Hospitals where our sick loved ones were made better. And care homes where our grandparents lived.
"They are, in some cases, generations-old emotional ties. I understand them. I have them myself. But they mustn't be allowed to become barriers that inhibit our citizens from getting the highest standard of healthcare."
Mr Hamilton said changes will also be made to improve a joined-up approach between the numerous bodies within the health service.
"Sometimes I feel the multiple organisations within our health system in Northern Ireland have not been as connected as they might be," he said. "That will change under my watch. We need to be more joined up and all pulling in the same direction."
Although he recognised change will worry people he warned the NHS would decline without far-reaching reform and added specialist services should be delivered from specialist facilities.
His speech came the same week it was revealed consultations are to begin on the closure of a number of residential care homes as part of the Transforming Your Care vision. Campaigners have also been been opposing moves to shut a number of smaller local hospitals.