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Time for debate on alternatives to health service

How effective would intervention by the British Medical Association be in respect to healthcare in Northern Ireland (News, June 24)?

In 1999, the Department of Health received £2.029bn and this has increased to £4.7bn during 2015-16, which represents an average growth rate of about 5.32% over those 16 years.

If this department's budget continues to grow at this rate, then in another 14 years it will consume some £9.974bn - the size of the current block grant under the Barnett Formula, which means Stormont will be reduced to a single department - Health.

This department's annual budget amounts to £6,033 per household (779,000), or £2,611 for each individual (1.8 million) here, which is on a par with the cost of private health insurance in the USA.

Perhaps it's time to have a debate about the alternatives available, particularly in light of the EU Cross-Border Healthcare Directive (CBD), which effectively means patients here are eligible to get treatment anywhere in the EU and be reimbursed by the health service.

At £6,000 per household per annum, we could probably afford to pay for the very best healthcare for patients and first-class air travel and still save money.

BERNARD J MULHOLLAND

Belfast

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