Ulster Unionist Health Spokesperson, Roy Beggs MLA, has revealed that there are currently 19 health strategies and pieces of legislation that have been delayed due to a lack of a functioning Assembly and Executive.
Roy Beggs said:
“It is scandalous that within the Department of Health alone there are so many pieces of legislation and key strategies stalled due to there not being a Minister in place to sign them off.
“The list of issues, which were only revealed after the Ulster Unionist Party sought them directly from the Department using Freedom of Information legislation, is extensive and includes key decisions such as the publication of Northern Ireland’s next suicide prevention strategy; something which had been expected for publication in 2017.
“Even the 2018/19 pay award for our doctors and nurses remains up in the air, despite being already finalised in England, Scotland and Wales. We are now half way through the financial year without a local decision.
“Another key decision outstanding are what actions are required to live within Budget for 2019/20. The last time the Health Department used language like that was in summer 2017 when each of Northern Ireland’s five health trusts announced sweeping cuts in a desperate attempt to make £70m of emergency savings. As I recently said in a submission to the NI Affairs Select Committee at Westminster – the later changes are left in the health service the higher the impact it has on frontline patient services.
“Most of the issues in the list however are non-contentious and have cross-party support yet they can’t be advanced simply because there is no mechanism in place in the absence of an Executive.
“The Secretary of State has allowed the stalemate to run on for far too long. Most, if not all, of these delays could have been avoided had she acted much quicker to put some form of decision making in place before now.
“Of course there are many, many other outstanding issues in the local health service – the 19 I have been told about are mainly just those that had been planned prior to the collapse of the Executive. In the 600 days since the collapse of the Assembly our waiting times crisis has deepened to the extent that patients are coming to harm, thousands of positions across the health service are vacant and the gap between demand and capacity of the local system has widened even further.
“Without a Minister in place to take and implement health decisions, our waiting lists are getting even longer and the community are suffering. The Prime Minister has a responsibility to everyone in the UK. A meeting of the Assembly should be called and if local politicians fail to appoint a functioning Executive, the Prime Minster needs to step in and appoint a direct rule Health Minister to end the drift in healthcare.”