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‘No sacred cows’ around health transformation, as Alliance Party and Sinn Fein back Robin Swann’s plans

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Two Stormont MLAs have given their backing to the Health Minister Robin Swann over his plan to transform the health service in Northern Ireland.

Last week Mr Swann said the design plan for reshaping hospital care is to be published and put out to consultation in the autumn.

He said it would focus on fixing the “long standing issues” in the health service and called for “everyone in the Assembly” to play a “crucial role”.

Speaking on BBC NI’s Sunday Politics programme, Alliance Party MLA Paula Bradshaw and Sinn Fein’s Colm Gildernew both said they were willing to support any proposals the minister brought forward and welcomed the fact he had held a meeting with a cross-party group of MLAs last week.

When asked if her party would be willing to accept the potential movement of services across Northern Ireland, Ms Bradshaw said there should be “no sacred cows” in any decisions.

The south Belfast MLA also called on the restoration of power sharing in order to ensure such plans can be signed off.

“We very much welcomed the opportunity to sit down with the minister,” she said.

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“We have a follow up meeting in three weeks, and we hope there will be more information going forward.

“We need to ensure the clinicians and senior leaders within our health trusts have a direct input into how we improve the service it is only then we will improve health outcomes.

“[I have] no problem at all [moving services]. We are all up for these mega clinics. We are up for those discussions, but they have to make sense.

“There are no sacred cows.”

Mr Gildernew said Sinn Fein had supported the minister “at every point in the way”.

“This is one of the most crucial decisions we will need to make in this society. We will absolutely engage in that discussion,” he added.

“What we need to see is this discussion moving from one of loss, to one of opportunity.

“We are up for that challenge [moving services]. There is also an urgent need to stabilise and reinforce services right now.

“In parts of the west there will not be GP services to transform in some areas, unless the support is put in now.

“We need a fully functioning Assembly and fully functioning Executive to deliver on these very urgent considerations.”

Last week, Mr Swann admitted the role of some hospitals in Northern Ireland will “change” going forward under the transformation plans.

“This will mean changing how we do some things. And yes, that will include reorganising how some services are provided, to create more centres of excellence able to deliver the quality and scale of services people need,” he said.

“Debates about reforming our health service have often amounted to little more than talk. It is a story we know only too well. This is an opportunity to reset that debate, to move it on and to concentrate minds. It’s time to change the script.”


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