A political summit on health took place in Belfast today involving the five main local political parties.
Junior SDLP Health Spokesperson and South Down Assembly Candidate Cllr Colin McGrath has called on the Health Service to stay clear of a ‘centralist agenda’ when providing healthcare services across Northern Ireland.
During a health conference today in the Stormont Hotel, Cllr McGrath argued that the provision of services to those living in rural areas must not be neglected.
He said: “The summit was a useful exercise that gave us the opportunity to articulate our concerns with the present Health Care system. I was keen to highlight the need for equity in provision both in terms of East/West and Rural/Urban populations and to argue that access to essential services should not depend on how close you live to Belfast.
“We were clear that a centralist agenda is unacceptable to the people of Northern Ireland. We detailed how services can be delivered in local Level Two hospitals and not always the main centres. While it is critical to provide services safely it is important too that they are accessible to rural populations such as my own area of Downpatrick.
“I look forward to further discussions with parties, the public and stakeholders about the future configuration of health services and hope the concerns and proposals represented today by the SDLP are given close consideration.”
Health On Agenda For Political Summit
The purpose of the summit, chaired by Professor Rafael Bengoa, was to consider the principles that should underpin the future model of health and social care in Northern Ireland with the aim of starting to build consensus, across the political spectrum, about the future delivery model for this vitally important area of public services.
Health Minister Simon Hamilton appointed the expert panel in January to consider, and lead debate on, the best configuration of Health and Social Care services in Northern Ireland. The principal focus of the panel will be to draw on the experience of those working in or using HSC services in Northern Ireland, but also to ensure there is an international perspective.
At today’s summit the panel presented a discussion paper containing draft principles for the parties to reflect upon and to respond with views by the 26 February 2016. The panel is aiming to report to the Minister with a final set of principles for his consideration by early March, which will then underpin the work of the panel in taking forward the design of the new model.
Speaking afterwards Professor Bengoa said: “Today we had a very constructive discussion with the political representatives and everyone was in agreement that we need to work together to deliver the best possible health outcomes for Northern Ireland’s population and to tackle the inequalities which exist. I and my fellow panel members want to thanks those that attended the summit for their open and full engagement in the discussion which has given us encouragement to move forward.”