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Our daunting challenge is to rebuild a health service ravaged by the pandemic

Robin Swann


Robin Swann

Robin Swann


Our health service has undoubtedly been through the most challenging year in its history. Covid-19 has tested it as never before and staff have risen to the challenge time and time again.

Now we are facing another huge and daunting challenge - rebuilding a health and social care system ravaged by the pandemic.

We have hospital waiting lists that no civilised society should tolerate. We also have well documented, serious pressures in social care and in mental health.

Let's remember that these problems long pre-date coronavirus. They have developed over many years and will require long-term sustainable solutions.

I am committed to doing everything in my power to make that happen.

Far too many of our fellow citizens - our relatives, friends and neighbours - are waiting far too long for much-needed treatments. Far too many older people are spending their final years in pain and discomfort, hoping against hope that dates for surgery will be confirmed.

We have to fix this. Despite the ongoing disruption from the pandemic, plans are in train in relation to both waiting times and cancer services. An increasing focus is on a Northern Ireland wide approach - with available theatre capacity across the province allocated to those patients most in need.

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We cannot properly tackle waiting lists without significant and long-term recurrent funding in place. One-off or here today, gone next year funding does not create the foundations we need.

With recurrent investment, we can maximise much-needed innovations both in-house in our health service and with independent sector providers.

And crucially, we can build up our workforce to ensure our health service has greater capacity - to better meet the ever-growing demand for health care.

All parts of Government in Northern Ireland are facing severe budget pressures. I fully accept that. But I also strongly believe that tackling waiting lists has to be a top priority for the Executive as a whole. That means a long-term budgetary package that puts patients first.

Robin Swann is NI Health Minister

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