Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Secret NHS dossier reveals scary truths

In our main lead story in today's newspaper, we reveal that the government fears that a no-deal Brexit could have a life-threatening impact on NHS patients in Northern Ireland. This makes for sobering reading
In our main lead story in today's newspaper, we reveal that the government fears that a no-deal Brexit could have a life-threatening impact on NHS patients in Northern Ireland. This makes for sobering reading

Editor's Viewpoint

In our main lead story in today's newspaper, we reveal that the government fears that a no-deal Brexit could have a life-threatening impact on NHS patients in Northern Ireland. This makes for sobering reading.

A Department of Health dossier, marked 'official sensitive', has been seen by the Belfast Telegraph, and this outlines worrying possibilities.

These include a shortage of certain vaccines and medications, including some cancer therapies, as well as difficulties in running paediatric heart surgery procedures which are based in Dublin, and over 1,000 NHS employees being unable to travel or resigning their jobs.

Our revelations come only days after the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust refused to release details of its Brexit preparations to this newspaper, on the grounds that if it did so, it would alarm the public.

This decision was rightly criticised by two former Stormont health ministers, Michelle O'Neill and Jim Wells, who called for the plans to be revealed immediately.

The devil, as always, is in the detail. As of last January, senior health department officials still had to take action to ensure the continuity of supply of no fewer than 300 medicines, of which 28 were listed as problematic.

If a gap does appear in the supply chain, health officials tasked with producing a contingency plan have admitted that such a gap would be likely to have a "life-threatening" impact on patients. Movement of patients across the border would also pose a particular difficulty.

Sign In

The dossier reveals that senior health officials have been working to establish whether EU engineers would be able to come to Northern Ireland to maintain important equipment such as MRI scanners.

When people are faced with official secrecy, they not surprisingly begin to ask what is being hidden from them. On the other hand, it is a hallmark of large bureaucratic organisations, such as government departments, to embark on cover-ups, even when they having nothing to fear.

We are not naive enough to believe that any government can conduct all its business in public. There are obvious exceptions to this, including national security.

However, government transparency must be the rule and official opacity the exception, if the government is to enjoy full public confidence.

Since the clear outcome of the 2016 referendum, far too much information has been shrouded in unnecessary secrecy, or withheld from the public entirely.

This tendency on both sides of the debate to infantilise the electorate undoubtedly leads to a widespread belief that Brexit is a carve-up between powerful elites, who are contemptuous of the popular sovereignty expressed by the referendum result.

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph