Patients have shamefully been left paying the highest price of political stalemate – Chambers

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Patients have shamefully been left paying the highest price of political stalemate – Chambers

Ulster Unionist Health Spokesperson Alan Chambers MLA has said that patients across Northern Ireland have been left paying the highest price for the continuing political stalemate at Stormont. He was commenting after the Department of Health confirmed for the first time that the major five year plan to tackle waiting lists published by Robin Swann in 2021 will no longer be achievable due to the political and associated budgetary impasse that has occurred since. 


Alan Chambers said:

“Northern Ireland’s waiting times position is utterly abhorrent. Far too many people are now waiting for too long, and unfortunately it’s widely recognised that patients are increasingly coming to actual long term harm. 

“It was almost exactly two years ago when Robin Swann published the Elective Care Framework, a detailed and realistic roadmap for tackling Northern Ireland’s appalling hospital waiting list.

“The Framework had 55 clear action points, and as soon as it was published it was endorsed by all Executive Parties and cross-Party commitments were made to allocate the £700m funding it required.

“Yet within less than a year of it being published the Executive collapsed, deadlines to set an overall multi-year Budget were missed and gridlock shamefully once again gripped Northern Ireland’s political system.

“Whilst there has undoubtedly been some progress made with the Framework, it’s been clear for sometime that as long as the political stalemate continues the more difficult it is going to be to secure the overall and long-term improvements it sought.

“The final straw for the Framework was last October when the remaining Ministers' left office. Up until that point Robin Swann had been able to protect what funding he could for it and yet since then we’ve heard the shocking decision of the Department of Health to withdraw money from this year's waiting list initiatives. 

“As the NHS celebrates its 75th anniversary, locally the service is at a critical juncture.  Unless we actually start to narrow and then reverse the gap between patient need and HSC capacity, more and more people are going to be forced into the often impossible decision of finding funding to pay for procedures privately or anxiously staying at home and relying increasingly on pain medication to manage otherwise preventable discomfort. This disgraceful position is completely unacceptable. It runs totally contrary to the concept and ethos that led to the establishment of the NHS in 1948 that promised to provide care based on need and free at point of delivery. These are the values of medical care all politicians have a duty to seek and  provide for the people of Northern Ireland ”