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Stormont health minister says sustainable service needs big change and more cash

Published 06/06/2016

Health Minister Michelle O'Neill says a sustainable health service will need radical change and much more funding
Health Minister Michelle O'Neill says a sustainable health service will need radical change and much more funding

Radical change and significant extra funding will be needed to create a sustainable health service for the future, Stormont's new health minister has told MLAs.

Michelle O'Neill said short term fixes were not the way to make lasting improvements to service delivery.

International expert Professor Rafael Bengoa is leading an independent examination on how best to re-configure health and social care in Northern Ireland.

His report is due to be handed to Ms O'Neill by the end of the month.

Both Sinn Fein and the DUP have committed to spending an additional £1 billion on health in the new Assembly term.

Addressing the Assembly on efforts to cut waiting lists in Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein's Ms O'Neill said: "The root causes of the problem here are representative of the wider challenges to the provision of world-class health and social care - increasing demand; financial constraints; and a slowness to bring about radical change and reform."

"The reality is that the way we deliver services has led to a situation where our hospitals are struggling to meet the ever-increasing demand for elective care.

"The specific issues are the increasing complexity of conditions requiring treatment, our ageing population, greater specialisation in the workforce and spreading our resources too thinly across the region.

"My energy will be fully directed at reducing waiting times and delivering the change needed to build a sustainable health service for this and future generations."

She said the "root causes" could only be addressed by "securing significant further additional investment to transform the way in which we deliver health and social care".

"I will therefore discuss with my Executive colleagues at the earliest opportunity the additional funding for the elective care plan and the need for additional investment to transform the delivery of services," she added.

The minister said she hoped the Bengoa report would enable Northern Ireland to become a "pathfinder" for finding new and innovative ways of delivering services.

"Part of that success will be to achieve a stable long-term financial position for the health service, where it is no longer viewed as taking up ever increasing amounts of limited public expenditure in order to respond to short-term budget pressures," she said.

"I believe that my proposal for significant transformational funding will be money well invested if we can use it to attain the prize of stable finances and sustainable services."

She added: "Change is needed and is inevitable.

"Therefore, we need new ways of working in health and social care to deliver better health outcomes for our population, reformed organisations that positively promote innovation and enable change to happen quickly and better use of our limited resources to deliver the maximum benefit for patients."

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