Belfast Telegraph

Lord Empey bill aims to transfer Northern Ireland health service powers to Westminster until Executive is formed

Former UUP leader Lord Empey
Former UUP leader Lord Empey

Former UUP leader Lord Empey has introduced a Private Member's Bill at Westminster with the aim of transferring Northern Ireland's health powers to Westminster.

If passed, it would see responsibility for local health matters returned to Westminster until an Executive is restored.

He described the health service here as being in the midst of its worst ever waiting times crisis.

Lord Empey said: "It is a tragedy that so many people – young and old - are coming to harm because they can’t get the right type of treatment when they need it. My party has repeatedly warned over recent years that our waiting times would simply not be tolerated in any other part of the United Kingdom.

"Our health workers are doing the best that they can, but in reality we have long since passed the point of staff being able to solve the monumental problems in the local health service."

Department of Health chief Richard Pengelly warned in October the service is "heading over the cliff edge" into a "full-blown crisis".

Speaking at a Healthcare Financial Management Association Event at the Dunadry Hotel in Co Antrim, the permanent secretary said the sector simply does not have the money to deal with the current pressures amid spiralling waiting times and a lack of an Executive at Stormont to make key decisions.

Lord Empey said: "If there was a local Health Minister in place I am in no doubt that they would have long started taking steps to tackle the frightening scale of the problem. Yet, with no Minister and no local Executive, our local health service is leaderless just when it is in its greatest ever need of strong and decisive leadership.

"That is why I have taken the decision to introduce my Bill – the Department of Health (Northern Ireland) Bill – to transfer responsibility for health matters back to Westminster. Once a local Executive is restored the powers would return immediately to Northern Ireland.

"As someone who previously served in the Northern Ireland Executive it gives me no pleasure at all to have to do this, but I am simply not prepared to wait any longer and watch as local patients come to serious harm as some political parties continue to thwart any chances to restore local devolution."

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