Belfast Telegraph

Health crisis: Get back to work, Marie Curie tells Northern Ireland politicians

Plea: Marie Curie’s Joan McEwan
Plea: Marie Curie’s Joan McEwan
Lisa Smyth

By Lisa Smyth

A charity which provides care to dying patients has taken the unprecedented step of calling on local politicians to get back to work.

Marie Curie said terminally ill people and their families were suffering in the absence of a functioning Assembly.

In an impassioned plea to politicians across the spectrum, the charity's Northern Ireland head of policy and public affairs outlined the agony being endured by vulnerable people as a result of the ongoing Stormont impasse.

Joan McEwan said yesterday that the charity was deeply concerned by the growing pressures facing the health and social care system.

The health service has been sliding deeper into crisis in recent years.

It emerged last month that one in five cancer diagnoses occur in emergency departments.

The failure in the service has arisen as a result of spiralling hospital waiting lists, following years of underfunding.

The industrial action by Unison and the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has brought the issue even more to the forefront after health bosses claimed cancer diagnoses may be delayed as a result.

In an open letter, Ms McEwan explained: "We see first-hand the impact that health and social care pressures are having on some of the most vulnerable patients in the system.

"Patients who are unable to be cared for at home because they are waiting for a social care package; who are having frequent emergency admissions to hospital because the community services they need, including out of hours services, aren't always available; and whose loved ones are being pushed to breaking point by providing hundreds of hours of informal care every month.

"We need to see all relevant stakeholders from health and social care, politics and beyond working together to address the immediate pressures facing the system and deliver much-needed long-term change.

"This would help to address the challenges facing services for terminally ill people and their loved ones.

"A critical step will be the return of the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Executive."

Earlier this year, a report by the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry found that 74% of the 4,316 people who died from cancer here in 2015 were admitted to emergency departments in the final years of their lives.

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