Six ways to save the NHS
The NHS is rightly regarded as one of the UK's crowning achievements, and a first-class health service must always remain one of the central priorities of government in Northern Ireland.
NI Conservatives wish to see an efficient and patient-focused NHS that delivers improvements to health and is free at the point of use. We see six areas for reform.
1) The Donaldson Report should be accepted in full by the Executive, including the first recommendation that the Executive accepts the recommendations of an international panel of experts to assess which hospitals should deliver the highest quality and safest acute care that medicine can offer. The NHS should not be used as a political football.
2) Services in Northern Ireland should be regionalised under a single umbrella trust rather than the six that currently exist. As well as services being regionalised, there should be centres of excellence for different specialities located at different hospitals throughout the province.
3) More care should be delivered away from hospitals and nearer to people's homes in local specialist care units and in GPs' surgeries. The much-heralded Transforming Your Care initiative consists of fine words, but it now needs to become reality.
4) We must ensure that charities and other groups are on a level playing field when offering to supply their expertise to the health sector through reform of the commissioning process.
5) We must empower community pharmacists to deliver care to patients within the community.
6) Funding currently provided through the Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme to speed access to medicines should not be used to plug other gaps in the department's budget, as is currently the case. We support a specialist medicines fund.
Action must be taken to bring waiting lists in line with what has been achieved in England. Savings from the reforms above will help release the necessary extra funds.
This is not radical thinking - it makes commercial and practical sense, and it requires leadership and courage from the Executive.
We need to see the parties working together to ensure an NHS in Northern Ireland that is fit for purpose.
- Johnny Andrews is NI Conservatives spokesman on the economy