Social Democratic and Labour Party Leader Colum Eastwood MP and SDLP Deputy Leader and Infrastructure Minister have given a cautious welcome to the news that the Executive will begin resourcing efforts to reduce Northern Ireland’s health service waiting lists but said that that the additional £30m provided is drop in the ocean when much more is needed.
The SDLP continues to push for a long term strategic resource plan to reverse the collapse of health services for far too many patients and meet the ambition of eliminating waiting times.
Colum Eastwood MP said:
“I welcome the Executive’s commitment to additional funding efforts to reduce our out of control health service waiting times. The truth is that this is not simply a waiting list issue; it represents a serious collapse in health services for far too many people who have been told that they have to wait for years for elective care that will improve their quality of life.
“The SDLP has made this a priority and our Minister Nichola Mallon proposed that the Finance Minister bring forward this resource package. We are glad that other parties are finally acting, but more must be done.
“What we need is a longer term strategic resource plan to deal with this crisis. £30m is welcome but it is a far cry from what is needed. The Department of Health and Royal College of Surgeons have identified £1bn is needed over the next five years to address waiting times alone. That critical resource needs to be accompanied by a strong political agreement to transform our health service so that patients can access treatment at the point of need. There will be difficult decisions ahead but as long as they are underpinned by expert advice and improve access to health services, then the SDLP will not shy away from it.
SDLP Deputy Leader and Executive Minister Nichola Mallon MLA said:
“This resource package is a good start and should be taken as a signal of intent. At the Executive table, I have been pushing strongly for the Finance Minister to bring forward a funding plan to allow our health service to deal with waiting lists. I am pleased that we’re now seeing our determination on this issue begin to deliver results.
“Hundreds of thousands of people are waiting for treatment that will end pain and enhance quality of life. That needs to be the single most important issue for every party and every Minister. The SDLP will continue to make it our priority.”