Sunday, November 27, 2022

“We get the health service we pay for,” the conference said

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Peter May, Secretary of State for the Ministry of Health, said that without sustainable investments, society will have to recalibrate expectations of the performance of the health and social systems.

Mr May is effectively in charge of the Department of Health as Northern Ireland currently has no ministers following the collapse of power-sharing institutions at Stormont earlier this year.

Northern Ireland’s struggling health service has faced severe budget constraints and endless waiting lists.

Earlier this week, Northern Ireland Minister Chris Heaton-Harris set a budget for Northern Ireland in which he said he would increase funding for health to “counter critical pressures”.

Mr May spoke at the annual conference of the Healthcare Financial Management Association’s Northern Ireland branch when he detailed the pressures facing the Northern Ireland health and welfare system.

He said: “Fundamental questions about the future delivery and funding of health and social care are waiting to be addressed.

“Ultimately, we get the healthcare we pay for.

“Without sustainable investment, we as a society will need to recalibrate our expectations of what our health and welfare systems can deliver.

“We all want to return to a health service that gets everyone who needs it, when they need it, in a timely manner. That’s far from guaranteed.

“Without sustainable funding, it will be impossible.”

The permanent secretary added: “Of course, as a system, we need to take many actions, big and small, to make health and social care more efficient and effective.

“We all know that.

“The recently announced attempt to reduce agency staff costs is an example of what needs to be done.

“We know that redesigning hospital services can ensure better care and add value to the taxpayer.

“However, we must not pretend that efficiency alone will close the ever-widening gap between demand and capacity.”

He added: “It is often said that you judge a society by how it treats the most vulnerable and the sick.

“The reality is that today, with the resources at our disposal, we are finding it increasingly difficult to provide the health and welfare systems needed to meet all the needs of the population.

“And the reality is, too, that our aging population and advances in medical science are causing the gap between demand and capacity to widen year after year, winter after winter.

“Those who work in health and social care are very committed to doing their best.

“It remains the case that the vast majority of the most ill patients receive very high quality care.

“At the same time, many people who require less time-sensitive care have to wait much longer, often in pain and discomfort.

“This is not the level of care that the public expects or that any of us want to provide.”

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