Editor's Viewpoint: NHS crisis symptom of bankrupt politics
There have been many reports about the effects of the funding crisis in the health service, but today we carry the stories of several people who show what it is to suffer at the sharp end.
Paramedic Brian Maguire has been working for 43 years in the NHS, and this is the worst he has seen it.
The situation is so bad that he had to pay £1,000 to get private treatment for his wife, who has also spent her career working in the health service.
Norah Brown needed a hip replaced, but the waiting time was three years and she had to pay £10,000 to go ahead with the operation.
It is disgraceful that she had to spend so much of her savings on something that should have been free to her on the NHS.
She recognises that she was fortunate enough to have had savings for this urgent treatment, but what about others who have no such resources, and continue to suffer for far too long until they are operated on?
Derek McCambley, who has had MS for over 12 years, had not been seen by his neurologist for more than two years, and then only in a rushed five-minute appointment.
Kathryn McCready describes the continuing suffering of her son Matthew, who has a rare bone condition, because of the chronic delays in providing treatment.
It is against this depressing background that fears are mounting about further pressures on the NHS due to a shortfall of £160m in the coming financial year.
Some money from the recent budget is a help, but this is a sticking-plaster and not a cure. Any talk of future controversial plans to prevent the health service going further into the red is worrying.
It is important to underline that people in need of care have little or no complaints about the level of treatment they receive from the dedicated staff. Their main complaint is having to wait so long.
The vision of the NHS founders was that health care should be free at the point of delivery for everyone.
However, as we reveal today, many people have to pay privately because, for health reasons, they cannot wait any longer.
Extra money in the budget is welcome, but this is offset by the empty ministerial offices at Stormont.
The effects of these appalling absences is seen most clearly in health, where people are literally suffering because our elected politicians are not doing their jobs properly.
Belfast Telegraph Digital