'Beyond belief’ that the deputy First Minister doesn’t appear to have been aware of key waiting list document - Beattie

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'Beyond belief’ that the deputy First Minister doesn’t appear to have been aware of key waiting list document - Beattie

Ulster Unionist Party Leader, Doug Beattie MC MLA, has called on the deputy First Minister to clarify how she wasn’t aware of the existence of a plan that had been previously considered and endorsed by the Executive to tackle Northern Ireland’s waiting times.

Mr. Beattie said:

“The situation regarding Northern Ireland waiting lists is appalling. Far too many people have been waiting for far too long on treatment and support. That is why the UUP stepped forward and took the health portfolio in January 2020 and again in February this year. We know what needs to be done and we’ve set out in detail how we want to deliver it.

“The Elective Care Framework, published in June 2021 and updated again in May 2024, sets out in firm detail, time bound proposals for how Northern Ireland could systematically tackle the waiting times problem. The Framework proposed a multi-year £700m investment, using a twin track approach of investment and reform - targeted investment to get many more people treated as quickly as possible, plus reform and investment to eradicate the gap between demand and capacity and ensure backlogs do not keep reoccurring.

“Yet throughout this election campaign, including during Thursday evening’s Party Leaders debate, other Executive Parties have bizarrely tried to criticise the absence of the very same plan. In making such unfounded claims, those Leaders are either being incredibly naïve or totally dishonest with the public of Northern Ireland.

“It is particularly bizarre that the deputy First Minister, Emma Little-Pengelly, took to social media on Thursday evening to state that the DUP were now ‘demanding’ such a waiting lists plan. Yet even after Mike Nesbitt graciously replied to her that such a plan did exist, and that it required some much-needed Executive funding, she responded again that she was ‘looking forward to delving into it then’.

“That, remarkably, suggests that she wasn’t even aware of the strategy, even though she was working as a Special Adviser when the June 2021 document was unanimously endorsed by the Executive at the time. Perhaps even more amazing is that she also doesn’t appear to have even read a further letter, containing the updated 2024 Elective Care Framework, that was sent to her from the Department of Health on May 24th this year.

“Whilst I appreciate some DUP Ministers in the past have been exposed for not being across ‘every Jot and Tittle’, it’s galling that the current deputy First Minister has been found to be so incredibly out of touch on such an important document.

“This is particularly damning as tackling waiting times, publicly at least, are meant to be a priority for the current Executive. “