Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland health service risks irreversible collapse without reform, warns Richard Pengelly

Richard Pengelly
Richard Pengelly

The man in charge of Northern Ireland's health service has warned the system will slip into irreversible collapse unless it is reformed.

Permanent secretary Richard Pengelly was speaking at the launch of a progress report on transform of healthcare in Northern Ireland.

He also said transformation would not deal with waiting lists, estimating it would take up to £1billion to deal with them.

Mr Pengelly said reform was delivering "real change" but had to continue in order to ease pressure.

Successive government reports show waiting time targets are being missed with health officials saying reform can only address the issue.

Mr Pengelly said: “We are clearly living through a defining era in health and social care.

“Today’s report charts significant progress in the two and half years since the publication of Delivering Together, the 10 year roadmap for transforming the way services are delivered.

“Without this push for change, the system would now be slipping over the edge into irreversible collapse.”

The update report on Delivering Together details examples of projects taken forward and supported by transformation funding.

As part of the programme, public consultations are being held on reshaping stroke and breast assessment services.

Reviews are also underway in other key areas including urgent and emergency care, oncology, neurology, paediatrics, and day surgery.

The day surgery transformation has already seen prototype elective care centres opened for cataract and varicose veins. The department is planning a public consultation later this year on plans to transfer thousands of other day case routine operations to dedicated elective care centre locations.

The specialities involved are general surgery and endoscopy, urology, gynaecology, orthopaedics, ENT, paediatrics and neurology.

Another major transformation initiative involves the roll-out of Multi-Disciplinary teams at GP surgeries. This sees GPs working with teams of mental health specialists, physios and other experts to provide local people with the right support.

Mr Pengelly paid tribute to the commitment of staff in helping delivering the change.

“We clearly still have a long way go, with serious challenges right across NI. Too many people are waiting too long for care and staff are under immense and growing pressure," he added.

“These problems are serious symptoms of an outdated health and social care system that cannot keep up with growing demand. Without reform, they will get worse year on year.

“The long term answer to hospital waiting lists involves reshaping services to improve capacity and provide more diagnoses and treatments.

“Likewise, staffing pressures are clearly linked to services being spread too thinly across too many locations.

“Without reform, staffing challenges will keep growing and bills for agency and locum cover will continue to climb.”

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