Belfast Telegraph

Minister warns over health reforms

Northern Ireland's new health minister has warned he is ready to bring in tough reforms, regardless of potential political fall-out.

Edwin Poots told the annual Chief Nursing Officer conference in Craigavon that he would work more closely with frontline medical staff.

But he warned that he will cut services he believes are not fit for purpose and promised "assertive" decision-making to remodel the health service.

The DUP minister detailed his eight priorities for the years ahead and said he would help focus on the most important services, but pointed to the need to recognise economic realities.

"You will know that, if we are to deliver the services that people need, we face some significant challenges," he said. "Had there not been a global economic crisis and subsequent recession, we would still not have had enough money to do all we want to do, even though this year we will spend £4.3 billion on health and social care."

"The financial situation - important and challenging though it is - is not my overriding concern. It is the quality of care for patients that is my compass."

Mr Poots said he would "not shy away from using private providers too, where that makes sense", but predicted it would form a small portion of the service in comparison with private sector involvement in Britain.

But he also highlighted important roles for the charity and voluntary sector and said the next five years would bring "an ever greater pace of change", presenting "difficult dilemmas on where to focus our health and social care resources".

The minister named eight priorities: driving up the quality of services and outcomes; increasing productivity; greater collaboration with frontline professionals; more powerful local commissioning; championing preventative and early intervention measures; helping limit unnecessary hospital care; encouraging charity and voluntary sector assistance to find solutions, and explore means of enhancing the overall patient experience.

Chief Nursing Officer Martin Bradley, meanwhile, praised nurses and midwives for the work they do, saying: "I have been privileged to work with a great many nurses and midwives who have shown the innovation, the courage and the resilience to not only lead and manage services in the midst of organisational reforms, but to also bring about change that has led to improved outcomes for patients."

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