It is clear that our health service has been a victim of chronic under-resourcing for a number of years, as a result of the Tory-led austerity and a lack of decisive and courageous leadership to implement strategic review after review. From hospitals to community care, there has been no commitment to a strategic and properly resourced vision of how our health service will care for an expanding and ageing population.
All of this has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic and the additional severe pressures on frontline healthcare provision. Waiting lists are growing longer, staff shortages are becoming more critical, our doctors and nurses are working to exhaustion to keep their patients safe. That is not sustainable.
Before the current crisis people in the North were at least 48 times as likely to wait more than a year for care as the closest waiting time in Britain. One in four people were on a waiting list. Waiting lists in each individual Trust area here in the North are longer than the entirety of waiting lists in England and are some of the longest in Europe. It is clear our health service needs to transform to meet the needs of our people. That’s why the SDLP supports the Bengoa Expert Panel report and supports removing politics from the equation and planning services based on need.
More than 200,000 people across the North suffer as a result of poor mental health, with almost 50% of these cases related to the conflict. The SDLP believes in parity of esteem for mental health services and that these services need to be properly resourced. We must secure an appropriate, community based provision which addresses both the trauma imparted by the conflict and other areas of mental ill health such as eating disorders. It is crucial we instill knowledge and tools in our young people, from childhood, to ensure they are resilient with strong mental wellbeing.
The SDLP supports enhanced dual diagnosis and services for those suffering from mental ill health and addiction, particularly for under 18’s. Our Health Spokesperson Cara Hunter MLA established the Assembly All Party Group on dual diagnosis to take this important work forward.