Latest waiting times illustrate how ineffectual recent Stormont Health Ministers actually were

Ulster Unionist MLA Roy Beggs has said the revelation that waiting times in emergency departments have actually marginally improved since the Executive collapsed reveals how ineffectual recent Health Ministers were.

Roy Beggs, the Ulster Unionist Party Health Spokesperson, said:

“Health waiting times in our accident and emergency departments improved slightly in March compared to the previous year.  As this follows a trend over the last 2-3 years of gradually deteriorating waiting times any improvement is a well-overdue step in the right direction.  I welcome the improved performance at Antrim A7E which has a noticeable improvement on this time last year but further improvement is required to hit the target of 95% of patients being seen within the 4 hour target. Credit must be given to our NHS staff for this improvement despite an increasing workload.”

“The irony is that this small improvement was achieved in months where there was no Health Minister in place.”

In January, February and March 2016, Antrim Area Hospital saw 67.7%, 65.3% and 61.3% of their patients within 4 hours.  A year on, in January, February and march 2017 those figures are 73.9%, 79.4% and 70.7%.  In the same timescale, the Mater Hospital has gone from 76.2%, 81.5% and 79.2% down to 66.2%, 71.7% and 72.4%.

“Michelle O’Neill was never a good Health Minister. Waiting times spiralled under her watch and she was more concerned with gimmicks and soundbites than actually delivering real improvements for patients.  She spoke vaguely of proposals to reform healthcare following the Bengoa Report but this was never converted into concrete actions with an appropriate budget. The fact that she collapsed the Assembly without a 2017/18 budget being approved demonstrated that she had no genuine desire for health reform.  The publication of these latest statistics highlights just how negligible and ineffective her policies and efforts were.

“We must not become complacent however; almost every aspect of the health service in Northern Ireland is in crisis. Waiting times remain wholly unacceptable, the gap between demand and capacity is widening each month and morale amongst our health workers is at rock bottom. An Assembly, with a competent and willing Health Minister, would be best placed to take the urgent decisions needed to ensure patients no longer come to harm.”

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