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Doctor confident of future improvements in Northern Ireland health service

By Staff Reporter

Patients should see improvements in the health service in the next two years, a leading clinician has said.

Dr Niall Herity was speaking after a report warned significant investment is needed to transform how care is delivered.

Sweeping changes to transform stretched NHS services in Northern Ireland are dependent on funding being made available, the Department of Health said.

A new report, published a year after the initial plan for reform of elective care services, showed a target on waiting times had not been met. The department said funding had not been made available to ensure no one faced a wait of longer than a year for a first outpatient appointment.

The aim of the major reform plan is for long-term improvement rather than short-term fixes, a doctor involved in the project said.

Dr Herity, a consultant cardiologist at the Belfast Trust, said he was not surprised the target had not been met, but was confident improvements would come.

He said: "It's not really a surprise to me that waiting time targets aren't being met at this point. I think what's being proposed is a much more systematic, fundamental change to the way we deliver our services and I would expect the benefits to be seen over a period of a short number of years."

He said millions of pounds had been injected into the health service in the past to meet targets but underlying issues around access to care had not been addressed.

The report indicates that the intention is for money to be made available in the next two years through a £200m transformation fund as part of the DUP's £1bn confidence and supply arrangement with the Tories.

A blueprint for transformation of the health service was agreed by the executive before its implosion at the beginning of last year.

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