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Jackie was correct that health service owed him... our politicians owe it to us to make it fit for purpose again

Editor's Viewpoint

As a rule of thumb we make our greatest demands on the health service around the time of our birth and in our old age.

And it is the growth in the ageing population that is creating much of the pressure blighting the health service at present.

While that doyen of sports broadcasting in Northern Ireland Jackie Fullerton is hardly anyone's typical view of an elderly person, even he admits that age - he is 73 - is catching up with him.

In recent years he has undergone major operations - a triple heart bypass, a hip replacement and most recently repair of an aortic aneurysm. Had this main artery burst he would have died very quickly but fortunately it was discovered in time - if only by chance.

As Jackie wryly puts it, the health service has helped to reassemble him. It has to be remembered that in spite of the intense pressure on staff they daily perform the most intricate procedures, saving lives as a matter of routine.

In return the least they deserve is a serious effort to address the pressure points on the service. There is a blueprint already drawn up on a practical way forward for the health service in Northern Ireland, but like previous initiatives it is gathering dust while politicians conduct an acrimonious election campaign.

Growing waiting lists, bed blocking, care in the community, funding, chaos in A&E departments - all these symptoms of an ailing service will be well aired during the run-up to the election, but patients and staff would rather see the politicians behind their desks working to resolve the problems rather than on the streets pointing fingers of blame at each other.

In his interview Jackie pointed up one of the dilemmas facing patients.

He considered paying for his latest operation but decided that after a lifetime as a taxpayer the service probably owed him. It is a not untypical thought as the debate on how to fund the service effectively continues.

In the meantime it is great to hear Jackie behind the microphone again today and fans will wish him many more years as the voice of football here.

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