Chambers challenges Eastwood comments on NHS

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Chambers challenges Eastwood comments on NHS

Alan Chambers MLA, Ulster Unionist Party health spokesperson, has responded to what he has described as insulting comments that will do nothing for the morale of staff, at all levels, working in the health and social care sector across Northern Ireland.

At the recent Westminster Northern Ireland Affairs Committee meeting, SDLP Leader, Colum Eastwood claimed that the state of the health service in Northern Ireland would "embarrass a third world country."

Alan Chambers said:

"I would hope that Colum Eastwood will reflect on the words he used when giving evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, words that I suspect were perhaps designed to grab a media headline. We are all well aware of the pressures on our health care system but it is insulting to the thousands of health care workers, at all levels in our health service, who turn up to work every day to deliver health care to those who need it and who undoubtedly help save countless lives on a daily basis.

"I fully acknowledge that there are many problems to be tackled in our health service, with waiting lists undoubtedly the most pressing of them all. Only a fool would try to say other. 

"The problems in our health service are deep-rooted and have been much publicised. A combination of some poor leadership from 2014, a series of reckless decisions, a lack of focus, and perhaps most damaging of all an absence of multi-year budgets, all culminated to the awful position patients and staff find themselves in.

“Whilst there were notable improvements across a range of waiting lists during the tenure of the most recent Executive, the failure again to agree multi-year funding and the subsequent collapse of Stormont mean we're in a worse position now than ever before. 

"To have any hope of tackling waiting lists, financial clarity and assurances are required, in advance, that will enable pay parity to be achieved as a major starting point to recovery. 

"Vague promises of some degree of financial help after an Executive is formed will not cut it. How any package is to be spent must be part of a robust programme for government that all parties who wish to serve in an Executive must sign up to prior to going back into Stormont. How that is all choreographed is an urgent matter for politicians in London and Belfast to design and deliver.

"That said, I cannot accept any person, acting in a party leadership role, glibly writing off our health service as being capable of embarrassing a third world country. Such comments do a serious disservice to those who work so hard to deliver health care to the people of Northern Ireland and who will be in the front line when we begin a welcome road to recovery."