By Staff Reporters
September 14 2018
There are currently 19 health strategies and pieces of legislation that have been delayed due to a lack of a functioning Assembly and Executive, according to the Ulster Unionists.
Party health spokesperson Roy Beggs MLA revealed that “patients are coming to harm”, with crucial decisions yet to be taken on everything from a suicide prevention strategy to pay awards for NHS staff here.
He also warned that patients would bear the brunt of cutbacks to frontline services with no one in charge.
“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 East Antrim MLA said.
The list only came to light after the UUP sought them directly from the Department using Freedom of Information legislation.
Mr Beggs said Northern Ireland’s suicide prevention strategy should have been published in 2017, but has still yet to materialise.
“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,” he said.
“Another key decision outstanding is 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.”
Mr Beggs said that most of the issues are non-contentious and have cross-party support.
However, they still cannot be advanced “simply because there is no mechanism in place in the absence of an Executive”.
Mr Beggs found 13 strategies required ministerial input. They include an evaluation of the Bamford review into mental health services, policy on GP services, agreement on minimum pricing of alcohol and a suicide prevention strategy.
There were six pieces of legislation awaiting Assembly approval. They included laws on supporting breastfeeding in public, e-cigarettes restrictions and a response to a ban on people smoking in cars with children.
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