Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Our health service is not good enough

The strong criticism by a senior UK doctor of the NHS in Northern Ireland is disturbing, but not surprising.

For a long time people here have known all too well about the frustrating waiting times for hospital appointments, and also the strains within the service, notably in accident and emergency.

Now Dr Laurence Buckman, Chair of the British Medical Association's GP Committee, has confirmed that waiting times for hospital appointments here are the worst in the UK.

He stated bluntly that his patients in England would not tolerate an eight-week wait for outpatient treatment, and that it is unusual for people across the water to wait more than 13 weeks for any form of hospital consultation or treatment.

In Northern Ireland, however, an increasing number of patients are waiting up to a year to see a hospital doctor, and the urgent treatment of patients with cancer and other serious illnesses is being delayed.

Dr Buckman, who is a regular visitor here, points out that the situation is becoming worse, and that something needs to be done about it.

His criticisms come after a period when the widespread distress caused to patients at A-amp;E departments has been widely publicised, and questions need to be asked about so many of these inadequacies in our local NHS.

At a time of severe cutbacks, the reduced funding is bound to result in a shortage of resources. Those involved in the NHS face massive challenges in trying to make the best use of limited finance and staffing, but it is sobering to be reminded that the situation here in some respects is still among the worst in the UK. The onus is now firmly on the health professionals to make the services better, and the public can do much by keeping up the pressure on everyone involved, including the politicians, to provide at least parity with the much better conditions in other parts of the UK.

The current situation here, with its inconsistencies and the seemingly endless scramble to cope with some of the most basic services, is simply not good enough.

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