Extra £30m to tackle NI waiting lists slammed as just a short-term fix
A cash injection of £30m to tackle hospital waiting lists in Northern Ireland does not go far enough, it has been claimed.
The funding boost, announced yesterday by the Department of Health, will be used to target inpatient and outpatient lists, with priority given to urgent cases and the longest lists, officials said.
The money will come from the £100m "transformation" fund made available as part of a confidence and supply agreement between the DUP and Conservatives.
Richard Pengelly, Department of Health permanent secretary, said: "To deliver transformation, we also need to increase public trust in the system and relieve some of the pressure on our staff.
"The Delivering Together and Bengoa reports both endorsed 'stabilisation' through reducing waiting lists. Today's announcement is an important step towards that goal."
However, the senior civil servant cautioned that further investment in the ailing health service was still needed.
He added: "The long term answer to waiting times and other major challenges remains transformation of the health and social care system.
"However, recognising that the transformation vision represents a 10-year agenda, we must also acknowledge that immediate action is needed on our unacceptable waiting times.
"The current waiting times are a consequence of rising demand for services set against an outdated health and social care system that is no longer able to meet this demand.
"Transformation means organising our services more effectively - delivering more in primary care settings and reforming hospital services."
UUP MLA Roy Beggs MLA welcomed the announcement, but warned that using resources that had been intended to transform the service is simply kicking the problem further down the road.
"While I welcome the announcement of this funding - and it will certainly come as longed-for relief for the patients that it will help - the reality is by diverting money away from transforming the service, the health department is simply delaying tackling the root cause of the waiting list crisis," he said.
"I hope that the department will now be maximising the use of NHS resources to enable more patients to be treated in our hospitals and minimise the use of short term agencies to temporarily adjust list sizes."
Sinn Fein MLA Pat Sheehan said tens of millions more were needed to get the NHS here back to its proper level.
"While I welcome any injection of money into waiting lists, let's be clear this is not additional money for our hard-pressed health services as these funds are simply being moved from the transformation fund," he said.
"The Health Service remains £160m short of what it needs just to stand still."