Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Our inquiry into healthcare far from 'puzzling'

IT is regrettable that an editorial (DebateNI, June 19) branded the Human Rights Commission's decision to conduct an inquiry into emergency healthcare as "puzzling". No one should be "puzzled".

As far back as 1976, the UK Government ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. In doing so, it freely committed to recognise the "right" of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. This commitment is binding on the Northern Ireland Executive.

The editorial says that the Human Rights Commission is "not the right choice" to examine A&E. But which other body would better placed to advise on human rights obligations in emergency healthcare? In fact, it is the commission's statutory role to hold the Executive to account on these matters.

Furthermore, the commission engages widely with the public and the two human rights issues we are consistently asked to address are emergency healthcare and poverty.

Indeed, the minister welcomed the inquiry announcement. So has the Assembly health committee. So have the health sector trade unions. So have the patients, families and staff who have already contacted the commission.

Finally, your editorial claims that the inquiry "will only add a layer of confusion". On the contrary, the commission's inquiry will complement the clinical 'probes'.

JOHN COREY

Interim chair, Northern Ireland

Human Rights Commission

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