Belfast Telegraph

High time MLAs got back to work for us

Editor's Viewpoint

Northern Ireland's five health trusts last week announced a public consultation on their plans to make savings of £70m. It was a none-too-subtle move aimed in part at demonstrating to the public the perilous state of the health service here and, no doubt, hoping that voters would put pressure on the political parties to restore devolved government.

Of course the parties remained unmoved, continuing to blame each other for the impasse and maintaining their faux outrage at each other.

There is no greater service that local politicians - or those at Westminster - can deliver than a properly functioning health system. Once the NHS was the envy of the developed world, but now its age and infirmity is showing in spite of the herculean efforts of those within it to provide the best possible service.

Asking the public to make suggestions on how to increase its efficiency or to determine which services should be cut in any given area is posing questions which non-health professionals are ill-equipped to answer. The organisation is too complex and too interdependent for easy or trite answers.

But what the public can easily understand is the plight of ordinary people facing potentially life-threatening health choices - people like 10-year-old Tyrone girl Zona Armstrong, whose quality of life could be greatly improved if a new drug to treat cystic fibrosis was made available in Northern Ireland.

Instead, her mother is considering moving the family to the Republic, where the drug is available. It is a solution any parent can empathise with.

And many people will agree with Zona's mum, who says the politicians should get back behind their desks at Stormont and start making the decisions which can affect the day to day life of people here.

They could decide if the national guidance on the availability of the new drug - which is costly - should automatically ban its use in the province. What cost do we put on young people's lives? There are an estimated 150 or so who could benefit from the therapy.

Some might argue that health policy cannot be dictated by individual cases, but we should at least have the debate and a decision by locally accountable ministers.

There is no point in the two major parties arguing over respect for each other when they are rapidly losing the respect of voters who simply want them to do the job they are handsomely paid to do.

Belfast Telegraph

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