Ministerial decisions needed for health service action plan to proceed - report
Some progress has been made on Stormont's major health service transformation but the ongoing absence of ministers means the big decisions cannot be made, a report has warned
Health Service officials have published an update report one year on from the launch of the then executive's flagship blueprint to change the way health care is delivered.
Launched amid much fanfare and rare political consensus among the main Stormont parties, the 10-year road map was the devolved administration's response to an independent analysis of the struggling system by a panel of experts led by Spanish Professor Rafael Bengoa.
Hospital closures were not envisaged in the Delivering Together action plan, instead a reconfiguration of the services provided by the current network of existing facilities.
The political landscape in Northern Ireland has altered dramatically since the launch day in October 2016, with the region having been without a properly functioning executive for almost ten months due to the powersharing crisis.
The report highlighted the work that has been done despite the political impasse.
But it conceded most of the progress has consisted of "necessary preparatory and enabling work".
The report stressed that for implementation, ministers need to be in place. It also made clear that more investment was required to deliver the transformation.
"Whilst progress can continue to be made in bringing forward proposals for change, difficult decisions will be required, as set out by the Executive and the then minister (Michelle O'Neill) upon the launch of Delivering Together.
"The nature of these decisions and their impact on the population warrants ministerial consideration."
It added: "The financial position remains challenging and this is not anticipated to change.
"The Executive agreed that transformation cannot happen without investment. It is inevitable that the pace of transformation will be impacted by the level of funding available."
The report also highlighted the extra cash that has been earmarked for the region's health service as a consequence of the UK government's confidence and supply deal with the Democratic Unionists - £200 million for transformation and £50 million for mental health services.
It added: "It is important that this funding is invested in initiatives which will enable and deliver transformation, ensuring our models and systems are fit for the future, rather than addressing current pressures."